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Entrepreneurial rights as human rights

The contemporary human rights debate is mostly concerned with the protection of people affected by change that is beyond their control. But what about those who make use of their basic economic rights to facilitate economic and social change? Do these agents of change need protection and, if so, how do their activities relate to the current debate on human rights?


In this book, the historical importance of innovative entrepreneurs as agents of change who indirectly contribute to a more humane world by enhancing access to basic human rights is illustrated. However, entrepreneurial rights tend to be neglected in economic and legal theory as well as in the global debate on human rights. Philipp Aerni argues that this neglect has its roots in the implicit assumption that entrepreneurs must surely know how to help themselves and therefore do not require special attention from a human rights perspective. The fact is, however, that those most vulnerable to human rights offences, especially in the developing world, are those who have failed to obtain formal employment and are therefore self-employed by default.

Dr Philipp Aerni is Director of the Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CCRS) at the University of Zurich, Zähringerstrasse 24, 8001 Zurich, Switzerland.



1 Introduction

2 Economic rights as fundamental human rights

2.1 Enhancing economic rights by shifting from informal to formal rules of business

2.2 Lessons learned from African American history: economicrights as a precondition of political empowerment

2.3 Lessons learned from European history: the idea of equal human rights has its roots in the struggle for economic rights

2.4 Economic rights in national constitutions and international reaties: lack of consideration of outsiders

2.5 Insiders have a different understanding of human rights from that of outsiders

3 Economic theory and human rights

3.1 Innovation and entrepreneurship for human welfare
   3.1.1 Creating youth employment through policies that facilitate economic change
   3.1.2 Enhancing access to human rights by converting outsiders into insiders

3.2 The problem with the baseline assumptions of neoclassical economic theory
   3.2.1 Remembering the ‘doux commerce’ hypothesis
   3.2.2 Monopolistic competition as a source of public welfare

3.3 Examples illustrating how innovation and entrepreneurship boost access to welfare-and autonomy-enhancing human rights
   3.3.1 Scientific discovery: the case of IBM and exploitation of the GMR effect
   3.3.2 Institutional innovation: the Orphan Drug Act and advanced market commitment
   3.3.3 Reducing poverty through a national innovation system: the case of China
    3.3.4 Information technology as a tool of empowerment

3.4 Innovation and entrepreneurship and access to human rights

4 Is there an economic right to grow through innovation? The legal perspective

4.1 Introduction

4.2 The right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress (REBSP)
   4.2.1 The REBSP from a historical perspective
   4.2.2 The wording of the REBSP

4.3 The right to grow through innovation (RGTI)
   4.3.1 The RGTI as an economic right
   4.3.2 The RGTI from a historical perspective
   4.3.3 Business can generate positive externalities

5 Business and human rights: the gap in the Ruggie Framework

5.1 Introduction

5.2 The debate on business and human rights
   5.2.1 The ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework


Acronyms and abbreviations



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Printed copies can be ordered for £15.00/CHF22.50 (plus packing and postage) from Merja de Nardo