Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Kit Wellman - Chair

Second Advisor

Andrew Altman

Third Advisor

George Rainbolt


The world’s human population is presently politically organized into an international system of territorially-defined nation-states. Each nation-state claims sovereign rights to non-interference and self-determination which minimize the legitimate influence of all other nation-states on the conduct of its internal affairs. International political discourse using the concept of human rights has become increasingly influential in addressing the regulation and restrictions of coercive activity that governing institutions can exact upon citizen populations. If there are universal human rights that all persons possess regardless of national affiliation, does this include basic economic rights that should insure all persons the basic economic goods necessary for healthy subsistence? Philosophers working within the state of nature contractual theory of government philosophical tradition, including Hobbes, Locke, Nozick, and Rawls, reach contradictory conclusions regarding the existence of universal basic economic rights. More recently, Shue has provided arguments affirming the existence of universal basic economic rights.