n Acta Juridica - Does the Constitutional Court of South Africa take rights seriously? The case of

Volume 2004, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1346
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2088



There is a difference between rights and lesser interests - a difference which Ronald Dworkin captures in his well-known description of rights as 'trumps'. 'Individual rights', Dworkin says, are 'political trumps held by individuals. Individuals have rights when, for some reason, a collective goal is not a sufficient justification for denying them what they wish, as individuals, to have or to do, or not a sufficient justification for imposing some loss or injury upon them'. Collective goals can, by contrast, justify the invasion of lesser interests. Dworkin gives the example of a law which forbids motorists to drive up Lexington Avenue. '[T]hough the New York government needs a justification for forbidding motorists to drive up Lexington Avenue, it is sufficient justification if the proper officials believe, on sound evidence, that the gain to the many will outweigh the inconvenience to the few'. But rights are a card of a stronger suit than the general good and the fact that exercise of a right is not in the public interest is not enough to justify interference with that right.

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