I have some questions about human rights:
- What is a human right?
- Are there a predetermined set of rights that every human should have?
- Do independent states (and cultures) have rights of self-determination, or are there issues where world-wide citizenship obligates us to speak out concerning the treatment of others?
I also have some important assumptions about rights. For example, rights are what humans believe that we can expect, as we live in society. While rights are often the province whereby those who have are jealous to conserve their own advantage against those who do not, rights must be for everyone or no one. Also, rights necessarily limit liberties at some point. Freedom and equality are ultimately contradictory values. In a society where people have liberty in a meaningful way, we must allow certain amounts of inequality, due to differences in people’s values. However, people are often limited, not by the choices they have made, but by the choices of others who command and control them.
With these things in mind, then, I believe there are several things we must consider in our search to maximize opportunities for those in the two-thirds world.
Several things about our free enterprise system are structured to maintain poverty in the world.
Many social practices necessarily impede progress in human rights.
No one has the right to consume too much of the world’s resources, until we all have enough clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and healthy food to eat, so that we can all be healthy.
No one has the right to consume products produced by labour that is forced, physically, psychologically, economically, socially, or politically.
No one has the right to keep education from any human being at any time and in any location.
No one has the right to deprive any human being of dignity, security, or opportunity at any time or in any location.
Of course, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights is much more detailed and carefully considered than what is listed here.
The real questions for us to consider require careful and thoughtful answers:
- How are we doing as a world population seeking to encourage and promote these rights as truly universal?
- What institutions should be dismantled (or downsized) in order to promote these rights?
- What liberties can be ‘rightfully’ limited, in order to promote these rights?
- What is the true and ‘rightful’ exercise of police and military force?
- In what senses (for what purposes?) should national borders be required to be open and allow for free movement in the world?
- Who will provide leadership in the promotion of universal rights?
- Where will we humans find the will to set aside our own comforts for the survival and prosperity of others?