Law school lecturer examines balance between human rights and business interests through government regulation

Leslie Zhang

Pablo Larranaga, professor at the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico, explored the relationship between regulatory and human rights regimes in protecting human rights Monday at the School of Law.

Regulatory regimes, Larranaga said, are a type of government that focuses on market failures, social control, risk management and policy goals through

“Regulation is central to [the] human rights agenda because effective governance is necessary for securing the social life conditions described as rights,” Larranaga said.

Larranaga said human rights regimes differ from regulatory regimes in that human rights are prioritized over business and industry considerations in the former.

The two theories of government both seek to protect human rights, but use different means, he said.

“States and governments are purposeful organizations justified to the extent that they create the specific social conditions described as rights,” Larranaga said.

Through time, political systems have responded to historical and cultural patterns to avoid patterns of reoccurring human rights violations.

“Regimes have symbolical and emotional attachments, Larranaga said. You don’t go through military regimes in Argentina and Chile and Uruguay and have the same human rights views on liberty [and] freedom.”

Using modern-day Mexico as an example of a government in which the courts hold more power than the legislature, Larranaga attributed the failures of that government to the power imbalance between those two branches.

“Regulation must be compatible with human rights, but the strategy of systematically giving human rights regimes priority over regulatory regimes undermines states’ and governments’ power to secure rights,” he said.

Zachary S. Elkins, associate professor of government, gave a short talk rebutting Larranaga’s argument.

“I can see regulation without rights but not rights without regulation,” Elkins said. “It seems to me in your conclusion you give it this spin a little, that they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, but complementary in many ways.”

Daniel Brinks, co-director of the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, said Larranaga’s talk was part of the Human Rights Happy Hour Speaker series sponsored annually by the center to explore topics relating to human rights, current events and social justice.

Second-year law student Michael Nelson said he disagreed with Larranaga’s definition of human rights, but agreed that regulatory apparatuses are necessary as a form of protection of those rights.

“I overall agree a regulatory apparatus is good protection against gross abuse of human rights,” Nelson said. “The U.S. is an example of a state in which regulatory framework is used more to protect human rights than the human rights framework, which is almost never used.”