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Rights, Reality, and Rocket the Vote

March 8, 2010

I noticed an article from the BBC this morning that merits some comment.  It raises a fundamental question: what is truly a right?

Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests.

The survey – of more than 27,000 adults across 26 countries – found strong support for net access on both sides of the digital divide.

Countries such as Finland and Estonia have already ruled that access is a human right for their citizens.

Emphasis theirs, by the way.  Go read the whole thing, and go read the study.  It’s fascinating for any data hounds.  The Secretary-General of the ITU stated this is a right like, “roads, waste, and water.”

Something to me says that this is pretty far away from, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Are Finland and Estonia the bellwethers for the new rights endowed by the Creator?  I’m not dissing the Internet.  You’re reading this because of that wonderful invention from DARPA that went ARPA that went viral.  I wonder how this actually works, and what it means?

In reality, this study probably will have an effect on all the efforts to enact legislation to create broadband infrastructure around the world (as the article notes, go read it).  Of course, I’ve talked about that before.  If you establish a new norm for connectivity, then those who can’t get it will lose the fundamental “right” that you’ve just enabled.  How do you chase the tail of content with a much slower infrastructure beast?

There are several questions in the survey that show people equate the Internet with food, shelter, and clothing as a necessity for life.  Beyond my initial reaction that people really need to get a grip, I wonder if this is turning into a new religious totem for some to distract them from their lives.  The unintended consequences of establishing an information source as a fundamental right are numerous, some described here.  But to the point: if everything suddenly becomes a fundamental right, what happens to the real fundamental rights?  Are they so diminished that they cease to be protected?  Don’t tell these people.

Updated: Welcome HotAir readers, and thanks to Ed Morrissey to the pointer here.  Feel free to window shop to see the other things we discuss here.  For those coming from elsewhere, go check out Ed’s take, and also his AIP column pointer to another “fundamental right.”

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2010 4:34 pm

    Or: to have someone else pay for what you can’t have on your own. If it lacks that, I’m all for it. The definition might break down where your fundamental rights infringe on someone else’s. Like your life in comparison to your neighbor’s. But I think that’s covered.

  2. March 9, 2010 4:30 pm

    I like the definition – if for no other reason than ‘the right to have whatever your neighbor has, whether or not you can afford it’ isn’t included :-)
    Very libertarian. I like it.

  3. Ken Allan permalink
    March 9, 2010 4:00 pm

    The best explination of “what is a right” I’ve found is from Ayn Rand. See here http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/individual_rights.html In short “…, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.”

  4. March 8, 2010 4:55 pm

    this reminds me of a discussion I had with my aunt (who is an over the top union advocate). She was offended that companies were taking jobs overseas & not giving better wages to the local working ‘poor’. To which I asked her whether she’d ever been to Nuevo Laredo & compared THEIR poor to our poor. Their poor live in cardboard/tin shacks overlooking a garbage dump. Our poor shop for clothes & electronics at Walmart.
    her answer? She had never been to any of ‘those places’ and didn’t ever want to see them….nice

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