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Are Human Rights Wrong?

By enterfornone in MLP
Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 10:10:04 AM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

There have been quite a few discussions on this site and others recently regarding various online rights, the most recent being Signal 11's The Digital Prohibition. Most of these discussions centre around the idea the we have some fundemental rights that all should recognise, for example the rights listed in the US Bill of Rights or the United Nations Universal Decleration of Human Rights.

But are these rights really applicable to all? The author of this article thinks not, suggesting that human rights are a political tool used by a group to force their moral code on to others and that each of us should be free to chose our own set of rights without being forced to agree with the rights of anyone else.


I think he certainly makes a good arguement. If rights are declared by group biased in a particular direction this can adversly affect the rights of others.

For example, if we take Signal 11's view on rights as universal, we then do away with the rights of copyright holders to control distribution of their work. If we take the rights expressed by PeTA as universal we need to abolish the rights of anyone who works in the meat industry, or consumes their products.

So with this in mind, is there a base level of human rights that do apply to all. And if not, why are we complaining when these rights are violated?

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Poll
Do universal human rights exist?
o Yes 46%
o No 30%
o Mine do, yours don't 20%
o Only in the USA 2%

Votes: 134
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o The Digital Prohibition
o US Bill of Rights
o United Nations Universal Decleration of Human Rights
o this article
o Signal 11's
o PeTA
o Also by enterfornone


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Are Human Rights Wrong? | 163 comments (155 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
Human rights baseline (3.80 / 5) (#2)
by dreamfish on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 06:22:19 AM EST

You ask for a base level - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is often taken as the baseline for other documents (it was the base for the European Convention on Rights & Freedoms).

Most of its articles are general and un-contentious: the right to life, to freedom from torture, recognition in law, right to asylum, etc. (It does go a little bizarre towards the end when it starts talking about right to paid annual leave - not what would usually spring to mind as a fundamental right).

Often the contention over any of these articles arises from religious conviction (e.g. rights of women) or from governments arguing over national security (e.g. right to detention without trial). Interestingly the European convention states, in almost every entry, that such-and-such is a right except where a member government says otherwise.

paid annual leave (3.60 / 5) (#7)
by enterfornone on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 07:24:06 AM EST

I think the idea is to allow for a standard of living where people aren't forced to work all of their waking hours. However many of us don't want such a "right" forced on us, should we be free to pick and chose the ones that don't apply?

There is a lot in there that many civil rights activists would probably disagree with, such as people being subject to restrictions in regards to morality (article 29) or that a family headed by a married man and woman is the fundemental group unit of society (article 16).

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
You are free to exercise your rights (3.66 / 3) (#36)
by earthling on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:07:54 PM EST

You were refering to Article 24
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
when you asked if we are free to pick and choose if any particular right applies to us.

The answer is yes, you can choose to exercise or not your rights. The purpose of the Charter is to define rights that can't be denied to you. So in your example, yes, if you want, you could work alot of overtime and spend all your waking hours at work. However, your employer shouldn't be able to force you, against your will, to work 80+ hours a week.

You raise a good point about Article 29, especially Article 29 (2):

In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.[my italics]
I agree that "morality" can be defined pretty much in every way you may dream of and that's a slippery slope all right. However if you check the next article, Article 30, it says:
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
This mean that even if a State can impose laws to define moral and immoral behaviors, it can't suppress any rights granted by the Charter, even if they believe them to be immoral. Well, in theory, at least.

Finaly, you stated "a family headed by a married man and woman is the fundemental group unit of society (article 16)". I think that's a misinterpretation of Article 16:

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
You'll note that nowhere is marriage or family required to be between members of different genders. Pretty foward looking for a document ratified in 1948 if you ask me.

-Earthling
"I'm sorry, I had to; the irony was just too thick."
[ Parent ]

The poll (3.28 / 7) (#3)
by Trracer on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 06:58:39 AM EST

Regarding the poll, human Rights only exists in the US?
If I'm not mistaken the US has not signed UNs declaration of human rights.
So signing that could be a start.

-- Inoshiro är en räksmugglare!
they signed it (4.00 / 5) (#9)
by enterfornone on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 07:36:51 AM EST

I guess you are refering to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which says many of the same things, but is actually considered international law rather than just a statement of ideals. It was signed by the US but has not been ratified in US law.

This page has a great deal of information on the human rights, particularly in relation to the UN.

"Only in the USA" was a reference to the various claims that the US Bill of Rights applies to the rest of the world.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]

keep in mind (3.20 / 5) (#10)
by enterfornone on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 07:57:29 AM EST

That page is quite a few years out of date. If anyone has a more up to date resource that would be appreciated.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
ok (4.25 / 4) (#17)
by h2odragon on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 09:15:43 AM EST

ICCPR page from UNHCHR, (these folks overuse acronyms worse than hackers), also the Declarations and Reservations as of a couple months ago. Be warned that last is about 300k of text.

There's a lot more to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights site, and a lot more to the implementation of that treaty. See for example the Declaration on the Right to Development; the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities (hey, does hacker jargon count? We've got our own dictionary); or the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The confusing part is sorting out which of these by virtue of UN General Assembly adoption are now actual laws superceeding national authority, which depends on your nationality. Well, as if the documents themselves aren't confusing enough.

[ Parent ]

Yes. No. Maybe. (3.00 / 8) (#5)
by h2odragon on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 07:14:30 AM EST

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."

  1. Man has the right to live by his own law--
    1. to live in the way that he wills to do:
    2. to work as he will:
    3. to play as he will:
    4. to rest as he will;
    5. to die when and how he will.

  2. Man has the right to eat what he will:
    1. to drink what he will:
    2. to dwell where he will:
    3. to move as he will on the face of the earth.

  3. Man has the right to think what he will:
    1. to speak what he will:
    2. to write what he will:
    3. to draw, paint, carve, etch, mould, build as he will:
    4. to dress as he will:

  4. 4. Man has the right to love as he will:

  5. 5. Man has the right to kill those who would thwart these rights.

...as usual, some dead guy said what I meant to say better than I ever could.

Heh (3.28 / 7) (#11)
by Farq Q. Fenderson on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 08:10:00 AM EST

He also pooped on floors at parties (no joke.) Crowley is one of those guys (like Freud) who's only safe to idolize after he's dead. =)

But, I agree, the phrase "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." is an important reminder about human nature. Unfortunately, too few understand the statement.


farq will not be coming back
[ Parent ]
"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the (3.50 / 4) (#16)
by Karmakaze on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 08:59:08 AM EST

"The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." -- Oliver Wendall Holmes


--
Karmakaze
[ Parent ]
Be careful when you quote Crowley (4.00 / 2) (#43)
by warpeightbot on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:29:33 PM EST

Uncle Alister had a bad habit of placing a few traps in his works, just to see if you were paying attention. To-wit, #5 above totally ignores the basic concept of karma, which was, the basic tendency of the Universe to snap back, wash after wash (or, in small Southern words, what comes around, goes around).

I think we can get the above quote into a workable form, however, by doing three things:

  • One, strike (5). This was Crowley's trap, to advocate war.
  • Two, add the limitation that my rights do not include the right to infringe upon yours, and vice versa.
  • and Three, no one has the right to not be offended, provided that, being offended may mitigate Two above, and that such offenses and mitigations are the bailiwick of the civil courts. (Translation: If you offend me, I may swing at you, and whether that is right is up to the judge and jury.)
This then is the extended function of government, in addition to running the Army, the Navy, the Post Office, and the Interstate Highway System, is to arbitrate disputes amongst men and women.

And that's about ALL it should do. http://www.lp.org

[ Parent ]

Liber OZ out of context sounds dumb... (4.00 / 2) (#51)
by w3woody on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:38:12 PM EST

To-wit, #5 above totally ignores the basic concept of karma, which was, the basic tendency of the Universe to snap back, wash after wash (or, in small Southern words, what comes around, goes around).

Of course, because the concept of "Karma" is contained in the first statement "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

What? No statement of karma in "do what thou wilt?" Well, remember that Crowley's concept of "will" is contained in the greek word "Thelema", which is mystically associated (via "93") with "Agape." Look up the word "thelema" in a good ancient greek lexicon, and you'll find that the greeks had a lot of words for "will", and "thelema" is the word used in the Bible in the original of that famous prayer:

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
I could go on quoting things like "Every man and every woman is a star" (and a pox on me for doing so), but the point is that we are all on our orbits. Disturb one, and those surrounding it are also disturbed. Karma is fulfilled and what goes around comes around, not because some mystical universe demands it, but because the people around us hit back when struck.

When you quote Liber Oz without realizing the mystical context in which "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law" is intended, it sounds like a bunch of nose-picking satanic wannabe high schoolers protesting against mommy. And I think that's the biggest trap Crowley set in his works--if you don't have some understanding of what Thelema is in your heart, it all sounds like high school crap, and you'll wander away from all this great stuff without accidently burning yourself.

And if you are a high schooler immature wannabe and take to the stuff, it gives a bunch of Thelemites the opportunity to wack you over the head!

Trust me: once you get the whole "Do what thou wilt" thing, not one line of Liber OZ needs to be changed.

[ Parent ]

You forgot something... (none / 0) (#53)
by w3woody on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:43:43 PM EST

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

You forgot "Love is the law, love under will" at the bottom of Liber OZ.

Love is the law, love under will.

[ Parent ]

The straight poop on Crowley (4.00 / 2) (#60)
by marlowe on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:19:06 PM EST

http://www.suck.com/daily/2000/10/31/

So much bad philosophy on the web these days.



-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
US foreign policy example (4.17 / 17) (#12)
by erotus on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 08:31:38 AM EST

"...suggesting that human rights are a political tool used by a group to force their moral code on to others..."

Well, how many of you remember the Iranian revolution of 1979 that resulted in the ousting of the Shah(king) of Iran, ending 2500 years of monarchy rule. Let me give you a little history. The Pahlavi Dynasty that took power in the early 1900's wanted to modernize Iran and lessen the influence of the Mullahs or Islamic Clerics. This was successful for many years and resulted in the modernization of the country. In the 1970's there were many Americans in Iran and my family was one of them. My father worked for Bell Helicopter with a very nice salary by American standards and an extremely good salary by Iranian standards. My father loved Iran and actually did not want to leave, however, the revolution happened and we had to go. Back then, women would walk down the street in mini-skirts and men in business suits. With the 4th largest standing army in the world, no Iranian would have believed that their way of life would have been changed so dramatically over the period of a year.

In the late seventies an uprising started brewing and several rioters were killed. The Shah held many political prisoners and was seen as oppressive by western standards, but this was not the case in reality. At this time, Carter was president and was pushing his "human rights" agenda on the Shah of Iran and on other countries as well. The political prisoners that the Shah held are the people who are running the country today - The Islamic fanatics. The Shah knew what he was doing but felt extreme pressure from the US to release these prisoners and give them "rights."

The Islamic right wing complained that the Shah was corrupting the country with excess westernization. Once prisoners were released and small riots occurred, more students and anti-government types were arrested, injured, or killed by riot police. Every month and a half a new riot with greater severity would occur and the Carter administration urged the Shah to remember "human rights." When the Shah left Iran, he ordered his generals not to shoot into riot crowds or otherwise use unneccessary force. Many factions rose up against the Shah - communists, socialists, marxists, Islamic rebels and the like. The Islamic rebels took the upper hand and killed the other dissenting groups despite the fact that they had helped overturn the government.

Now, 21 years later, we have to ask ourselves and the Iranian people if they are better off because of "human rights." Many Iranians here in America have a great deal of resentment towards Carter and his policies. Many of them say the Shah knew his people and knew what kind of vicious, barbaric, scum the religious zealots were and that Carter had no business interfering and trying to shove his human rights agenda on a country that was better off without them. Many Iranians have left Iran and currently reside in Europe, Canada, or America where they can continue their free way of life as they once knew it.

Lets look at Iran from within. The current government won't hesitate to take politcal prisoners and execute them. Rioters are killed or imprisoned and this government believes they are defending God's word by doing so. While there was religious ferver in the beginning, the average Iranian today is fed up with religious hypocrisy and religion in general. The people have become less religious as a result and would love to rid themselves of the current government. The current government will be harder to topple because of their blind faith and religious fanaticism - this regime will kill anyone and will fight tooth and nail to keep it's power, something the Shah was unwilling to do - kill innocent people on a large scale to keep his power.

The poster had stated, "If rights are declared by group biased in a particular direction this can adversly affect the rights of others." This is very much the case regarding Iran. I can't think of a better example on a large scale. An entire country was ruined and alienated from the rest of the world and millions, and I do mean millions, of Iranians have fled this even more oppressive regime because of "human rights." When we look at the rest of the world through our eyes, we don't see a very clear picture or rather, get the wrong picture. People/governments can be too ethnocentric, judgemental, and by not practicing cultural relativism they will make blunders of astronomical proportions that will affect many. Iranians in exile know first hand what I'm talking about.


The usual rebuttal... (3.33 / 3) (#28)
by Ken Arromdee on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:20:38 AM EST

... is that if human rights in general had been more respected in Iran under the Shah, Islamic fundamentalism wouldn't have taken hold enough to be a problem in the first place, since it has less to offer people who aren't oppressed.

I can somewhat see that point, though it still doesn't consider that sometimes we have to deal with preexisting situations that aren't the best.

[ Parent ]
A severely "western-centric" view, isn't (4.20 / 5) (#32)
by Pac on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:50:45 AM EST

Besides the fact that you seem to really believe Pahlevi late days marketing machine (so the Shah come out of your comment as a modernizing humanist that would order "his generals not to shoot into riot crowds or otherwise use unneccessary force", and that when he was running away for good with most of the said generals in the same plane), you absolutely ignore the iranian people right to choose their own fate.

As it is the rule with this classical western view of the world, the iranian people end up portraited as a bunch of children freely manipulated by any available organized group and their aunt too.

Also, when you say "communists, socialists, marxists, Islamic rebels and the like", are you aware that the first two groups are usually part of the third group and that the last group has absolutely nothing to do with the other three, so the expression "and the like" is at least misleading?

You conclude with a "Lets look at Iran from within". Can we really? Can you? Have you been there? What are your sources besides exiled iranians who, not surprisingly, oppose the current government? What sources can confirm that "the average Iranian today is fed up with religious hypocrisy and religion in general. The people have become less religious as a result and would love to rid themselves of the current government"?


I just want to make clear that I do not approve the present Iran government. But I also do not support the historical rewriting you are proposing here, making Pahlevi look like a wonderful guy who was wrongfully took down by Carter human rights policies. Pahlevi and his father ("The Pahlavi Dynasty") were butchers and the fact that the group in power after them is no better will not make them the good guys in this story.

Evolution doesn't take prisoners


[ Parent ]
From within (4.50 / 4) (#102)
by erotus on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 10:07:35 PM EST

"You conclude with a "Lets look at Iran from within". Can we really? Can you? Have you been there? What are your sources besides exiled iranians who, not surprisingly, oppose the current government? What sources can confirm that "the average Iranian today is fed up with religious hypocrisy and religion in general. The people have become less religious as a result and would love to rid themselves of the current government"?

Where oh where do I begin.. Yes I have been there and exiled Iranians are not my only source. People inside Iran are very upset with the status quo but are even less
willing to do anything about it because of the mindstate of their current government. Most westerners can't understand the mindset of these rulers or the people who follow them. They will die for their beliefs and they believe they will hold a high place in heaven for doing so. If I fight for my country, I die for my country and my beliefs. For them, dying in battle for the "Islamic" republic is tantamount to martyrdom, which the Shiite branch of Islam considers to be the highest sacrifice of oneself and that a high place in heaven is guaranteed. How many of us ready to die for our beliefs in that way. These people are willing and they do NOT fear death. There was a family who lost a son to the war with Iraq. The brother of that son was very upset because he wished to be a martyr also and was jealous of his brother in the afterlife.

"But I also do not support the historical rewriting you are proposing here, making Pahlevi look like a wonderful guy"

I never said he was a wonderful guy nor did I intend to rewrite history. I said in my post that he did hold political prisoners. He was a monarch and a dictator. His father before him was even more ruthless towards the opposition. I never meant to paint a rosy picture but merely state that relative to the current regime, Pahlavi was a gentle lamb. He was ruthless in many ways also. If you wish I could post more history for you pointing out attrocities of the Pahlavi's as well. You have to realize that the Pahlavi's were calm in comparison to the Qajars or other dynasties before them. Iran has had it's share of terrible rulers. There was a king in Iranian history who blinded an entire city because he felt they were disloyal to him.

"you absolutely ignore the iranian people right to choose their own fate."

Again, did they choose their fate? The hardliners backed the revolution while many did not. Those who did support the revolution did in fact shove their way of life on the rest of the country. I don't call this choosing their fate. The people did want to rid themselves of the Shah, but did they want to form an Islamic republic? Western media shows you the extreme and never shows you the masses. More like, a few chose a lifestyle for the many. Again, this goes back to the people inside Iran today - most are fed up. They backed the revolution in 1979 to get rid of the Shah, not to gain Khomeini. Believe me, I have many connections with the Iranian community and I've studied Iranian history and language for a while now.

"Also, when you say "communists, socialists, marxists, Islamic rebels and the like", are you aware that the first two groups are usually part of the third group and that the last group has absolutely nothing to do with the other three, so the expression "and the like" is at least misleading? "

Sorry about this. When I said "and the like" I mean other islamic rebels who had differing opinions. The current regime opposes the mujahaddin who also opposed the Shah. The mujahaddin hates the Islamic Republic but at the same time, they have their own Islamic agenda. The mujahaddin is now in exile in Iraq. The various Islamic factions disagree with eachother. For example, President Khatami is liberal(in the Iranian sense of the word) and wants to slowly reestablish relations with the west and he also wants to relax some of the religious restrictions. Khamenei, a staunch conservative and the spiritual leader of Iran, opposes these ideas and has his own agenda. Both factions are in government right now. Much the same as Republicans and Democrats in the US but even that is a loose analogy. The spiritual leader is appointed and remains until he dies, much like the pope. The president is popularly elected. President Khatami was elected because he promised more liberal ideas to the people and they voted for him. Unfortunately, he has his hands tied by the ultra right-wing faction which can never be voted out. Even though both men are Mullahs, Islamic priests if you will, they disagree on many social policies.






[ Parent ]
Say Carter Kept His Yap Shut... (3.75 / 4) (#83)
by eskimo on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:38:56 PM EST

Say the Shah got to rule the way he wanted. How long until he'd be boiling frogs? Of course I am referring to the most likely never tested assumption that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water it will try really hard to climb out. But if you throw a frog into a pot of luke warm water and slowly heat it, the frog will let himself become a hearty broth.

This post reminds me of an Onion story, 'Lloyd's Refuses to Insure This Year's Kristalnacht Festivities.'

Keep in mind, the Shah was a monarch. What were the checks and balances? I'll be the first to admit that the history of Iran is not one of my big subjects. It just seems like the potential for abuse was immense. That the Shah, whether or not at Jimmy Carter's behest, refused to shoot into crowds of people proves a couple of things. He was a pretty enlightened cat, and he participated in a pretty silly form of government.

If Carter never spoke up, how would we know when one too many person has been imprisoned or killed? If it is not one, then what is the number? You boast of the westernization of the country, but the West is more than mini-skirts and business suits. We have certain kooky ideas, and we're still trying to get a hold of some of them. Things here are pretty far from perfect for sure, but I have a lottery winner's chance of waking up in a cell tomorrow morning, even though I am participating in this discussion.

I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
[ Parent ]

Point well taken (4.00 / 2) (#103)
by erotus on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 10:24:44 PM EST

I see your point. I did not mean to allude that Carter was the cause of the revolution. There is only so much I can write on K5 and the history of Iran would take up a set of encyclopaedias. What I meant to say was that Carter rubbed salt in the wound. The Shah could have saved his title and his country if he had taken a back seat and let a prime minister run the country while his family kept their titles as monarchs, much the same as the UK. Iran was a ticking time bomb that could have been disarmed. At the rate it was going, the revolution would have still happened, only that it might have been delayed.

"If Carter never spoke up, how would we know when one too many person has been imprisoned or killed? "

Good point also. However, human rights are now an even bigger travesty under this new government. Religious minorities like Jews or Baha'is are stripped of their rights. Baha'is are especially treated badly by the current government. Baha'is are peaceful people whose religious ideology clashes with radical factions of the Islamic republic. Many baha'is have been tortured, imprisoned or killed. I know families of these people and they've told me some heartwrenching tales. Under the Shah, their might have been some discrimination but not outright imprisonment and death for one's religion. Even worse things are happening to people under this regime and I wonder, where Carter is now? The shah might have been a devil, but Khomeini was satan in the flesh. Sometimes the devil that you know is better than the devil that you don't know.

[ Parent ]
My objections (none / 0) (#131)
by strlen on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 11:11:57 PM EST

Don't be overly nice on the Shah. No matter what, you can't keep prisoners due to their ideas, their thoughts, their speech. You can't torture people, and Shah did not even deny that his government did that -- he in fact agreed to it and said "so" in an official interview.

The Islamic fanatism rose up as oposition to that. Not all solutions to a problem are rational, but fed-up people will do anything.



--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
Article and "A Bright Shining Lie" (3.42 / 7) (#13)
by pete on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 08:36:05 AM EST

The author's main objections to human rights as declared by the U.N. are:

  • They are not really human, they are filtered through the viewpoint of American culture.
  • The U.S. will use them as an excuse for military interventions.
  • (If you read the article, make sure you click on the link at the very bottom where the author renounces his rights; it's the most interesting part).

    Having said that, he's probably right. The article made me think of this section from the fantastic book "A Bright Shining Lie":

    The United States did not seek colonies as such. Having overt colonies was not acceptable to the American political conscience. Americans were convinced that their imperial system did not victimize foreign peoples. "Enlightened self-interest" was the sole national egotism to which Americans would admit...Instead of formal colonies, the United States sought local governments amenable to American wishes and, where possible, subject to indirect control from behind the scenes...The goal was to acheive the sway over allies and dependencies which every imperial nation needs to work its will in world affairs without the structure of old-fashioned colonialism.

    Does the U.S. plan to use this issue to continue its policy of covert imperialism in the post-Cold War world?


    --pete


    Human rights are right... (4.00 / 8) (#14)
    by B'Trey on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 08:39:30 AM EST

    Despite the title of the article and the claims he makes, Paul Treanor does not reject human rights. He merely argues about their exact nature. Treanor believes in at least one human right - the right to moral autonomy. He calls it a principle, but that's really just a matter of semantics.

    If you examine the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, you'll find that all of the human rights listed there are actually subsumed by the right of autonomy. An autonomous human being is automatically free to say what he likes (freedom of speech), worship as he chooses (freedom of religion), etc.

    I agree with the gist of what Treanor is saying. Human rights do not impose an obligation on any other person. Rather, human rights are actually limitations on what a government (or other person/organization) may do. Your freedom of speech actually means that I may not (ethically) attempt to silence you.

    Examined in this light, it's clear that healthy drinking water is not a human right. Healthy drinking water does not exist in many parts of the world. A company or government fouling a public source of water is certainly ethically wrong and grounds for legal action but it isn't a human rights issue.

    This also removes the issue of a person having to "accept" or choose their rights. You have the right to free speech by virtue of you existence as a human being. You may not act on it. You may live your entire life in absolute silence, but you still have that right. In no case is having a right detrimental to a person.

    Contradiction (4.20 / 5) (#47)
    by Simon Kinahan on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:43:53 PM EST

    I agree with the gist of what Treanor is saying. Human rights do not impose an obligation on any other person. Rather, human rights are actually limitations on what a government (or other person/organization) may do. Your freedom of speech actually means that I may not (ethically) attempt to silence you.

    This is a contradictory position. If rights limit what others can do, they do impose an obligation on others. I think what you're trying to say is that legitimate rights are negative; that is the duties they impose on others are duties not to do things. This is a popular position, but I believe its excessively simplistic. Consider the right to freely contract with others for goods and services: if you make an agreement with someone to supply you with, say, 100 cabbages, and they only give you 99, you can go to court to get your last cabbage. Its reasonable to say you have a right to than cabbage and the other party has a duty to supply it, but this is undeniably a positive right.

    Similarly, if I have a right to freedom from physical assault, others have an obligation not to assault me. Fine so far: this is a negative right. But if I happen to be a weakling, its not satisfactory to say noone has an obligation to help me. If they don't I effectively have no rights at all.

    The logical conclusions of an insistence on negative rights is the egoist individualist anarchist perspective, in which it is my obligation to contract with someone for protection services if I wish to protect myself from assault. Such an approach makes rights redundant as concepts, but involves a problem which is both logical and practical: who enforces my contract with my protection agency ?

    Simon

    If you disagree, post, don't moderate
    [ Parent ]

    Obligations (3.33 / 3) (#81)
    by B'Trey on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:35:24 PM EST

    This is a contradictory position. If rights limit what others can do, they do impose an obligation on others.

    I tend to think of an obligation as something which requires action. I'll rephrase to say that human rights to not obligate anyone to act on my behalf.

    Consider the right to freely contract with others for goods and services: if you make an agreement with someone to supply you with, say, 100 cabbages, and they only give you 99, you can go to court to get your last cabbage. Its reasonable to say you have a right to than cabbage and the other party has a duty to supply it, but this is undeniably a positive right.

    You have a legal right to that cabage by virtue of the contract the two of you agreed upon. Legal rights are different than human rights. Human rights are rights you have by virtue of existing as a human being. I do not, just because I was born, have a right to a cabage. I do, just because I was born, have a right to worship in the manner I choose. Every human being has the same human rights; they can not be taken away. This isn't to say that they can't be violated. Obviously, human rights are violated on a daily basis. But violation of a right does not remove that right.

    Similarly, if I have a right to freedom from physical assault, others have an obligation not to assault me. Fine so far: this is a negative right. But if I happen to be a weakling, its not satisfactory to say noone has an obligation to help me. If they don't I effectively have no rights at all.

    Sorry, I vehemently disagree here. Your right to be free in your person and your property does not obligate me to protect your rights. Protection of your rights is the respoonsibility (and, in fact, the only moral responsibility) of government.

    The logical conclusions of an insistence on negative rights is the egoist individualist anarchist perspective, in which it is my obligation to contract with someone for protection services if I wish to protect myself from assault. Such an approach makes rights redundant as concepts, but involves a problem which is both logical and practical: who enforces my contract with my protection agency?

    This is precisely why we form societies. We band together to protect each other's rights.

    [ Parent ]

    Government has to be secondary (none / 0) (#114)
    by speek on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 01:35:32 PM EST

    Sorry, I vehemently disagree here. Your right to be free in your person and your property does not obligate me to protect your rights. Protection of your rights is the respoonsibility (and, in fact, the only moral responsibility) of government.

    Which means you believe a government has to exist to protect rights, but I don't understand that. Why would you introduce government as a required entity in human affairs? And doesn't that government really represent you (and you are required to support it with your money, labor, etc)? The government is a tool we use to fulfill our obligations to protect the rights of others. But, if that tool did not exist, the obligation would remain.

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident,... (3.70 / 10) (#15)
    by farmgeek on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 08:44:21 AM EST

    ...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

    I think those are about the most basic you can think of, and they encompass most other specific rights, especially when taken in context with the next sentence:

    "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

    The second sentence would agree with the article being discussed. Rights cannot be taken away, neither can they be imposed. You can claim your rights, and you may surrender your rights, but it is strictly a personal choice.

    If you truly believe you have a right, it is your personal responsibility to claim it. While you may killed for claiming your rights, the rights themselves cannot be taken from you.

    As far as the UN Declaration, it is complete and total junk in that it goes far beyond basic rights and that in order for many of the rights to be excercised other rights also stated in the document must be trampled.

    For example in order to enforce Articles 22 through 30 (social security, general welfare, free education etc), Article 17 (private property) would have to be ignored. There is no way to provide for those 'rights' without the public seizure of private property or private labor. While public welfare is desirable, it is not a prerogative of the state to provide those themselves, but to merely ensure that the right of the people to provide those for themselves is not infringed (the pursuit of happiness).

    So basically, the base level of rights that apply to all is the right to self government. Everything else is ancillary.

    Yup (none / 0) (#120)
    by Matt Hall on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 04:57:48 PM EST

    I was reading through the U.N. declaration of human rights a few weeks ago, and I was horrified at the apparent foolishness behind it. I mean, since when were men born with the right to the fruits of other men's labor?

    [ Parent ]
    Do get tired of hearing "but it's my right&qu (2.85 / 7) (#18)
    by Mantrid on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 09:25:03 AM EST

    Ever get tired of people screaming and frothing at the mouth about how it's 'their right' to do something or another?
    Yes there are certain rights which should be respected, however:
    Unless you live on a planet all by yourself, your rights have been limited
    If you lived on some world, all your own, you would have the right to do absolutely anything you desired. However as soon as there's one other person on the world with you, your rights to do certain things have been limited, at least if you are assuming that all people have equal rights. For example, now that there's another person on the world with you, you don't have the right to beat the crap out of him, or piss in his water jar, or any other number of things. Even with just two people, the interplay of rights can be complicated. Do you have the right to burn down a forest that your neighbour is walking around in? Before he was there you could burn it down and it wouldn't matter, except to you (never mind the trees and animals, that a totally different can of worms...).
    Hurling rocks off a cliff top may have been your passion before, but maybe your new pal walks around near there now? Do you still have the right to throw rocks down?
    Perhaps the biggest problem with all this talk of 'my rights' is the selfish attitude behind it. Should you always be looking out only for yourself? Perhaps people should occasionally be willing to forego their rights on occasion, in order to allow others to enjoy theirs. Yeah it sounds kind of cheesy, but if everyone wasn't soooo worried about themselves and cooperated with others more, we wouldn't have to worry about rights, because we'd all be looking out for each other. This, of course, will never happen so some laws and such become necessary, but even if people thought outside of themselves a little more things could be a lot better.

    Can't you *read* the damn Declaration? (none / 0) (#139)
    by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 04:32:41 PM EST

    Yours has got to be the most idiotic and misinformed comment in the article, hands down.
    Unless you live on a planet all by yourself, your rights have been limited. If you lived on some world, all your own, you would have the right to do absolutely anything you desired. However as soon as there's one other person on the world with you, your rights to do certain things have been limited, at least if you are assuming that all people have equal rights.

    Duh. Don't dress this up as an original idea, and a contribution to the discussion-- this is the content of Article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a basic principle behind *any* system of rights, anyway, and thus has been known for over 200 years.

    --em
    [ Parent ]

    The only limit (3.50 / 4) (#19)
    by Demona on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 09:41:44 AM EST

    on one person's rights is the equal rights of every other individual. Sussing out where those "personal spaces" begin and end should be a job for due process of law as shown by the common law.

    My favorite example: When railroads started up in the US, they were polluting a lot of farmer's lands. Under the common law, the farmers had standing to sue the railroads for trespass on their property, as well as spoilage of enjoyment (I forget the exact phrase). What happened? The railroad executives went whining and crying to the government (legislature), demanding special privileges over and above their natural rights. End result: Individuals may no longer sue for pollution/trespass under common law.

    Common law is far more likely to represent the "will of the people" than any number of "elected representatives". Unfortunately, in the US it's been pretty much tossed out as corporations and government realized it wasn't conducive to their ends -- i.e., ever-expanding profits, and perpetually staying in power.

    Half-right (3.60 / 5) (#21)
    by deang on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 10:05:40 AM EST

    It appears from reading the article that the writer really believes the enforcing human rights is what is wrong. To a certain degree, I agree. However, unless I misunderstood what I was reading, the writer's ideas fail to deal with issues such as American slavery. The American slaves were deliberately denied education exactly so they would never get the ideas they might have what he now call human rights. The author of the article seems to believe that the people need to claim their rights and that no one has the right to force it upon them. In the case of the slaves, they were not allowed to read. They were owned by unscupulous individuals who deliberately acted to deny these people their human rights. Since the slaves were not allowed to learn about anything, much less human rights, they would neve know they could declare their rights as the author demands before action could be taken. The author appears to be an anti-abolitionist regarding the issue of slavery. I do not believe this is the writer's intent, just the result of their suggestions/beliefs of this issue.

    I decided to look around, so I went to

    http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/

    It seems the writer has quite a few beliefs on a variety of issues. I had thought that he might be a libertarian leaning individual from his non-interference stance, but that is clearly not the case. See

    http://web.inter.nl.net/users/Paul.Treanor/libertarian.html

    for more info on that. Or just look around the site and make up your own mind. The writer did have a few good points about problems with human rights and in particular the way governments try to enforce these on others. Unfortunately, the author doesn't really suggest a viable alternative unless we are willing to accept the problem mentioned above regarding slavery.

    Dean

    (sound of zippo lighting) (2.33 / 3) (#24)
    by h2odragon on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 10:57:07 AM EST

    While in no way condoning slavery, I feel compelled to point out that US slaves despite all the resons not to often and sometimes successfully fought for their freedoms, by reading though it was not allowed, escaping from their owners, etc.

    I'm too blitzed to do proper research and give you links, but the slave stories I remember reading once upon a long while ago brought to my attention the possibility of intrinsic rights, and the necessity of propaganda as "education" if you want people to surrender their rights.

    you don't have to "declare" your rights until you expect someone to defend them for you. All you have to do is realize that you have rights to defend or gain them for yourself... Keeping them might present obstacles depending on your situation.

    I think the point you're distorting is that forcing your notion of human rights on others is wrong. The right to education mentioned in the UN stuff is becoming "the right to UN sanctioned education", which is shaping up to be nasty by some accounts. Hunt around for info on the "World Core Curriculum"...

    I really like the way you take an arguable misinterpretation of what the guy's saying and turn it into accusing him of being pro-slavery; professionally done. You're not a lawyer by any chance?

    ... so he's got a 5 rating when I hit "reply"; but no, I can't just rate him down, I've gotta bitch about it...

    [ Parent ]

    Misrepresenting a "misinterpretation" (4.00 / 2) (#39)
    by AEtherean on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:20:46 PM EST

    He never accused the author of being "pro-slavery." In fact, he specifically stated that he did not believe this was the author's intent, only a likely result of his beliefs.

    Also, rating down an interesting article that you disagree with would be wrong... replying, like you did, was the correct course of action.

    [ Parent ]
    ratings (1.50 / 2) (#67)
    by h2odragon on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 03:26:21 PM EST

    I rated him down anyway, not because I disagreed, but because the rating it had was too high. The reply was because I disagreed strongly enough to be sarky.

    [ Parent ]
    Such sweeping statements (none / 0) (#41)
    by farmgeek on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:24:16 PM EST

    "The American slaves were deliberately denied education exactly so they would never get the ideas they might have what he now call human rights. "

    Actually, you are partially right. All slaves were not denied education. Many slave holders educated their slaves themselves in order that they might be able to read the Bible. While I do not agree with slavery, I disagree even more with the manufacturing of 'facts' or making overly broad statements.

    As far as the issue regarding slavery, I highly doubt that you will find a person anywhere who does not believe that personal freedom is a right.

    [ Parent ]
    Pro Slavery v. Anti-abolitionist (3.00 / 2) (#48)
    by deang on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:09:54 PM EST

    I apologize if my statements are a bit over broad, but perhaps part of the confusion is a subtle distinction I (and the author in question) have made. That is the difference between being against something, and actively intervening. This is the difference alluded to by my anti-abolitionist statement.

    The author may believe that slavery is wrong, but he does seem to be against intervening. To quote one example from the article, he states :

    "Intervention does not logically follow from human rights ...If, for instance, children are being tortured to death in Eritrea...The torture does not automatically produce a moral entitlement to intervention"
    I have cut quite a bit out, but I believe I have kept in proper context. The author seems to believe that slavery is wrong, but says we do not have the right to intervene. Thus I stand by my statement that he is an anti-abolitionist.

    As for the issue of personal freedom being a right, the article in question also states

    "This text completely rejects human rights..."
    He doesn't say anything about supporting other rights. Besides, if it isn't a human right, then what kind of right is it ?

    Dean

    [ Parent ]

    I agree with him here (none / 0) (#62)
    by farmgeek on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:40:26 PM EST

    I think it is very wrong for a nation to try to enforce it's concepts of rights onto another nation via military power.

    The use of sanctions are much more appropriate for such purposes since it doesn't step on the national sovereignty of the offending nation.

    I'm not exactly sure what he means by rejecting human rights, although he could be interpreting the phrase to mean rights granted by humans to other humans, in which case I would also reject them in favor of inherent or 'God given' rights.

    Or he could just be rejecting the concept of inalienable rights outright, which seems somewhat myopic to me.

    I apologize about the slavery thing BTW, I probably over reacted. Being a rebellious southerner I tend to get my hackles up whenever the subject of US slavery is brought up and is not treated with painstaking accuracy. You did raise an interesting point by bringing it up though.

    [ Parent ]
    I agree with him only so far (none / 0) (#90)
    by deang on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:25:12 PM EST

    I agree that we should not use force to give people rights they don't want. However, but the complete refusal to use force to help an oppressed minority just because they are across some insubstantial national border is taking things to far. Many countries don't agree on what their borders are. He is against this, I am not. I would use military force, if necessary, to free people from a concentration camp for example. The author says this is wrong.

    I also could argue about the distinction you make about economic v. millitary force. Is it better for a child to starve to death because of sactions, or be shot to death in a military action ? I see little difference. The death was caused by deliberate action either way. But this is another topic which deserves more space and time than I have to give right now.

    Dean

    [ Parent ]

    The ONE true Law (3.44 / 9) (#22)
    by jabber on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 10:22:37 AM EST

    Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.
    Save harm another, do as ye will.

    Simple and succinct statements, but one which requires a lot of thought.
    To "do onto others" requires comprehension of the situation, and a deliberate choice of action. To "Not harm another" requires understanding of consequences of one's choices.

    Both of these rules strongly imply one thing that seems to be lost in most complex legal systems: PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

    Some punk kid shoots another in a back alley, and lawyers clamor all over each other, shouting that "Society is to blame".. No! Who pulled the trigger?

    A bunch of old fogeys push the wrong button in an election, and the lawyers start circling like vultures, looking for someone onto whose head they can crap the blame.

    The main human right is the ability to accept personal responsibility for one's actions. It is a violation of Human Rights, Dignity and the Sanctity of Life/Sentience to deprive a thinking being of the right to accept responsibility. A slave is deprived of choice and so has no responsibility/accountability, for example, and so slavery is a violation of Human Rights.

    There is a significant difference between Freedom and Liberty. Freedom seems to imply the freedom from responsibility and consequences, while Liberty allows a choice, but maintains accountability.

    The Inalienable Rights (which the US subscribes to) are those of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Therefore it is wrong to deprive another person of their Life, their accountability and their ability to better their lot in life.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

    Inalienable Rights.. (none / 0) (#29)
    by xtal on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:22:10 AM EST

    The Inalienable Rights (which the US subscribes to) are those of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Therefore it is wrong to deprive another person of their Life, their accountability and their ability to better their lot in life.

    Those versed in history will notice that the authors of the constitution of the United States left out "property" from that equation - both personal property, and more importantly, land. So while you do have the right to be free - you are more than likely going to be free (and happy, undoubtedly) on land you don't own, making someone else (namely the people that benefited most from independance) rich. The "persuit of happiness" bit is a scam that sounded good. What the hell does that mean?

    Oh well, I'm a Canuck. I just wish the average american knew more about their country. (Average american != average kuro5hin reader :).


    [ Parent ]

    Golden rule... (3.00 / 1) (#33)
    by ucblockhead on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:00:48 PM EST

    Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. Save harm another, do as ye will.

    This is not necessarily as perfect as we'd hope. The trouble with it is that people differ. An example:

    Suppose you are in a coma, and only have a 1/10,000 chance of ever coming out of it, and if you do, you'll likely be severely handicapped. Would you want your parents burdened with the expense of your life support or would you want life support removed, presumably causing you to slip off of this moral coil?

    It should be clear that not everyone would answer that question the same. So now turn it around, what if it were some stranger in the coma and you making the decision. How do you apply the golden rule?

    Or as another example, Jerry Fallwell would likely say that he would want people to force the bible on him until he repented if he ever became an unbeliever. I wouldn't. So how do we apply the golden rule? The golden rule thus tells Jerry Fallwell that it is ethical to force the bible on me, because he'd want the same done to him if he ever fell to my wacky beliefs.

    I don't disagree with the rest of what you said, but think that it needs to be recognized that the golden rule is nice in theory, but doesn't always apply real well in practice.
    -----------------------
    This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
    [ Parent ]

    Sophistry (3.00 / 1) (#49)
    by jabber on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:19:31 PM EST

    Of course, the golden rule presumes good will, and assumes that people will keep other's perspectives in mind when exercising their own will. At least in principle, Jerry Falwells would realize that their value system may be as unwelcome to another person as those of Malcolm X would be to themselves - without this reciprocation, any 'liberating' principle becomes a yoke of tyranny.

    As Voltaire said: I may not agree with what you're saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

    With that sentiment 'reasoned' out of the Golden Rule through the application of convenient logic, the Golden Rule is useless.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Not so simple. (3.00 / 1) (#52)
    by ucblockhead on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:39:56 PM EST

    But for members of certain evangelical religions, changing value systems is a goal, and something they tend to be very thankful happened to them. Voltaire said that because that was his value system. Other people hold the exact opposite value system. That makes the whole thing much more difficult than it seems.

    Or to put it another way: If a cult captured you and brainwashed you to worship the almighty OOG, would you want to be rescued and have your value system changed back? I'd say "yes" to that. Does that mean that I should try to "rescue" anyone who belongs to a cult that I think is silly and brainwashes?

    The trouble is that the "sentiment" in the golden rule is often used to excuse fairly offensive actions. More than one person has hurt another while feeling that they followed "the golden rule".


    If the "golden rule" presumes good will, then you don't really need the rule in the first place. Good will is enough on its own. Good will, on its own, leads people to try never to do things to people that those people would object to. With that, no rule is needed.



    -----------------------
    This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
    [ Parent ]
    Religion is a slippery slope (4.00 / 1) (#58)
    by jabber on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:15:02 PM EST

    I think you're actually making two points here.

    1. Religious zealots (and zealots of any movement - ahem) tend to operate outside the Golden Rule to begin with. As you said: "for members of certain evangelical religions, changing value systems is a goal"... I doubt that zealots have the capacity to honestly consider the opposite side of an issue. I'll hit this again in a bit.

    2. The brainwashing argument. On the surface, I agree with it, but there is a subtle sidestep in there. If a cult 'captures and brainwashes' you, this is clearly against your better judgement - and you are justified in welcoming a rescue. However, how do you get from there to the assumption that someone who differs with your views needs rescuing? You have a key phrase "that I think (THINK) is silly". If a person is a member of a 'silly' cult wilfully then they need rescue as much as you would, if you were a wilfull member of a cult.

    The question then becomes: What's 'wilfull'? We've already established in a previous post that depriving another individual of choice/responsibility is a violation of their dignity as a thinking being. This holds interesting consequences for all zealots who do things "in the name of God" or "because it is God's will". How presumptious is that, BTW?

    There are books upon books written on ethics - Aristotle's being probably the touchstone for all of them. Willfull, deliberate choice is a difficult thing to pin down. Brainwashing, misinformation, misunderstanding, prejudice, all these things can be used to deprive someone of their choice, and so render them not responsible - and therefore subject to 'rescue'. This is turning into a very messy argument, isn't it?

    No wonder that, after thousands of years of trying to build a stable society, we still can't get it done. Understand that I am not trying to get my way here. I appreciate your being a sounding-board. This runs quite deep.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    A dangerous principle indeed. (3.50 / 2) (#46)
    by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:42:48 PM EST

    Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.
    This is a dangerous principle on which to build a society. You are basically saying that whatever your personal tastes are it's acceptable to force them onto others. What does what I want done to myself have to do with what I should do to other people? I don't see the connection - and frankly I don't think that their is one. This just seems to me to be a slogan for people who want to foist their values onto other people.

    And I haven't even started on the subject of people who simply have no respect for their own selves....
    SIGFPE
    [ Parent ]
    You're right. (none / 0) (#54)
    by pb on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:45:15 PM EST

    The Golden Rule, taken at face value, is broken.

    The Golden Rule condones rape, for instance.

    That's why, in this modern day and age, we have phrases like "mutual consent" instead...
    ---
    "See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
    -- pwhysall
    [ Parent ]
    Runs deeper then that. (3.00 / 1) (#55)
    by jabber on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:47:06 PM EST

    I never said that personal tastes are enforcable onto others EXCEPT when you are willing to have the tastes of others enforced onto yourself. That's the equitability of the Golden Rule.

    If I like being beaten, I may go and find someone who likes to beat others, I may NOT beat others to get them to beat me. Any relationship within the scope of the Golden Rule, within which power is not equitably distributed, is be necessity, consentual.

    All right? Let's follow that thread for a minute.

    Say I really get off on being beaten. It's something I enjoy, for whatever reason.
    The Golden Rule in no way implies that others should beat me simply because I so desire.
    Neither does it imply that I may beat others. The Golden Rule is not about you and you alone. It is about the complete, rational reflection of a situation to consider the consequences. It requires that a certain degree of abstraction be applied to the introspection, so a situation could be rationally considered in the reciprocal sense.

    People who want to be mistreated by others do not necessarily want to mistreat others as well. "Dysfunction" is rarely a two-way street. Abusers tend to not enjoy abuse, submissives tend not to seek dominance. This alone pretty much negates the argument, since how someone wants to be treated (in a self-deprecating manner) usually does not bear resemblance to how they treat others - in fact, usually, the exact opposite is true. And I did say 'usually'. Tyrants do not seek to be tyranized, controllers resent being controlled.

    There are consequences to mistreating other people. These consequences, as seen through the Golden Rule, are such that the punishing side would see them as fair and just if imposed against themselves in a reverse situation. This doesn't say that the punishment is equal pay-back for the inflicted pain. Instead, what this says is that the punishment I impose is such as I feel I would deserve to receive, if I had comitted the crime. Significant difference.

    Of course this opens up the door to lawlessness, since a Golden Rule society might refuse to punish, on principle... But there is a small detail which resolves this. A minor concession that a Liberated Society must make. A written Code of Law, the violation of which implies the suspension of individual sovereignity - making an individual punishable by the society as a result of breaking of The Law.

    So we come full circle, since the UN Definition of Human Rights can be seen as such a Code of Law declared by Society, rendering violators punishable by the greater collective of nations. Interesting dilemma.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Hidden assumptions (none / 0) (#82)
    by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:38:12 PM EST

    If I like being beaten, I may go and find someone who likes to beat others, I may NOT beat others to get them to beat me.
    Read the wording of the golden principle very carefully. It says "do unto others as you would have unto yourself". A specialisation of this imperative is "beat other people if you want to be beaten". It's a command not that it's OK to beat people if you like being beaten - it positively commands you to beat other people if you like being beaten. You may think this is wrong (and you do if I read you correctly) but that's not what the golden rule says. Everything you seem to say in your reply is a justification for another principle that you have, as yet, failed to state. (Maybe you mean "do unto others only that which you would have done unto yourself" although I think that loses some of the original intention.)
    People who want to be mistreated by others do not necessarily want to mistreat others as well.
    True but irrelevant. But your principle has nothing to say about those who do want to mistreat others - and there is no denying such people exist.

    When you use the word 'same' you implicitly include a large pile of ethical baggage that is left unsaid. It implies an isomorphism between people. For example I might say "Being beaten gives me pleasure so I shall beat others". But someone else might reply "No! Being beaten gives you pleasure but it is the 'giving pleasure' part you should do to others - not the beating part." One person equates masochist A being beaten with non-masochist B being beaten. Another person might judge this incorrect and equate A being beaten with B being given money because they both give pleasure. Your principle puts the power into the hands of those who determine what the isomorphism is - and that's scary because a rabid Christian might have different ideas to a sado-masochistic atheist.

    PS I do often use the golden rule as a rough rule of thumb.
    SIGFPE
    [ Parent ]
    Nope (2.00 / 1) (#96)
    by jabber on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 06:49:32 PM EST

    One of us mis-read what I wrote, and it wasn't me. The rule states "Do onto others as you would have THEM do onto you" - and to me, that makes a huge difference.

    I may be into self-mutilation, and that's nobody's business - keep back with that branding iron. :)

    Frankly, I think we've degenerated into semantics. "Do onto others" is indeed a command, especially to folks used to thinking in programming syntax. DO (Beat people) WHILE (NOT U_R_Happy)... The human meaning - at least as I read it - carries with it the idea of their consent. Is that where we differ in interpretation?

    I may be assuming something that can't quite convey, and it must be pretty low-level to how I think. Could it be the Socialist :) idea that the application of the Golden Rule only works if an individual considers it recursively? The consideration of the other's perspective? How would this person - without my preconceptions - receive my actions?

    As for the reamined of your post, I am absolutely fascinated by the Pandora's Box it let's us open. Do you say that the perception of reality is NOT up to the individual experiencing it?

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Hmmm...I'm getting confused (2.00 / 1) (#101)
    by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 09:50:25 PM EST

    Frankly, I think we've degenerated into semantics
    I don't think we have - only part of what I'm saying is semantic. My issue with the golden rule is this "what does what I want done to myself have to do with what I should do to someone else?" I fundamentally disagree with you here. I just think this is irrelevant - I just don't see the connection between what I like and what someone else should have done to them. I can't really explain any more - if you don't see an a priori connection (like me) then you don't see a connection.
    I may be assuming something that can't quite convey
    I guess you are!

    How would this person - without my preconceptions - receive my actions?
    There's nothing about this in the golden rule. Maybe you'd like to rephrase it. "Do unto others that which is received the way I receive that which I want done to me". It's getting complex. It'll get to the point where the addenda you need to add to the golden rule to explain it are more complex than simply starting from a new principle. In fact you hint at an alternative set of principles when you say
    The human meaning - at least as I read it - carries with it the idea of their consent.
    I am absolutely fascinated by the Pandora's Box it let's us open. Do you say that the perception of reality is NOT up to the individual experiencing it?
    I'm fascinated by what you read into my post! Could you explain what you have read into my writing?
    SIGFPE
    [ Parent ]
    I ought to know better than to read K5 this late. (3.00 / 1) (#111)
    by jabber on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 03:16:49 AM EST

    As for the interpretation of the Golden Rule, I agree, there is a fundamental difference in how we read it. I am not able to look at it in a purely logical sense, detaching my ethics and morals - which is where the disagreement must be. I follow your reasoning, and I agree with the logic, but I just can not accept what this means in the 'real world' if the Golden Rule were to be applied purely in those analytical terms.

    What I thought interesting about your post was : "Your principle puts the power into the hands of those who determine what the isomorphism is." and the example of deciding the right course of action, given background/moral core. Morality is an individual matter, but if left completely up to the individual, it may easily result in chaos. If person A decides that the equitable treatment of person B involves, for example, smearing them with crunchy peanut butter, then the world would quickly become a very strange place. And so I find myself back at the beginning of the discussion, because I see a need for a commonly agreed upon (possibly mandated) standard of behaviour whereby fair and unfair, just and unjust can be determined.

    The UN code for Human Rights is exactly such a touch-stone. So is my local speed limit. Is it right for a 'representative' group of individuals, who share a common set of beliefs, to dictate those beliefs onto a population that never asked for 'representation'? (I need to re-read the Social Contract literature to make sure I don't run over my own tail in thinking about it.) That was the original question of the article, and having walked around the problem, mumbling "no" under my breath, I have to resign and say "yes" simply because I can not see a better alternative in an imperfect world.

    The Law, on any level, is needed in some form once enough individuals are involved to have some noticable difference of opinion about 'right' and 'wrong'. Further, this Law needs to represent the views of the majority in a majority of cases. I'll skip the unneeded tirade about fooling some of the people all of the time, etc. I think it is pretty clear that this acceptance of the need for Law results in the present day state of things.

    Still, there is something that troubles me about "Your principle puts the power into the hands of those who determine what the isomorphism is". After all, isn't everyone free to define what the isomorphism between people is? Doesn't every single individual decide what is a fair action (A) to take in response (or before hand) to another action (B), based on how they received (B)? Your statement seems to suggest that this is not so, that there is a sort of 'elite' which makes the determination of interchange of justice between people.

    I agree that if only a subset of people are able to define this interchange of appropriate behaviour, without adequate consideration of the others, then there are clear problems If everyone is free to make that determination for themselves, and everyone else can also reasonably anticipate how their acts will be precieved by the people affected - and make their choice according to the Golden Rule only after considering this, then what's the problem?

    One obvious problem is that it is not reasonable to expect real people in real situation to have such complete understanding, and so the Golden Rule is only truly applicable in an ideal world. Ours is not it, but since all (a great statistical majority) people seem to share the same set of fundamental ideals, then the Golden Rule is a fair guideline, at least with respect to those actions whose basic value we can agree upon. Whether those things come from some ethereal sense of morality or from a legal document is besides the point. Whether we as individuals really hold some truths to be self-evident, or we are just told that we should, doesn't change the fact that once we accept them as being 'for the common good' then we can apply the Golden Rule to govern behaviour with resonable expectation that we're not going to harm another - and so we may do as we please.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Pardon Me While I Butcher Kant... (none / 0) (#76)
    by eskimo on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:12:43 PM EST

    Not the man, but his philosophy. And I was taught butchered Kant, so it isn't exactly my fault, other than I was not motivated enough to dig deeper. But the butchered Kant, like a butchered cow, was tasty and nourishing.

    What I got out of Kant was this: Act as though each decision you make is a societal mandate.

    It is a strange sort of twist on the Golden Rule. Instead of simply worrying about others, think of society. Now think of the choices we make. If you chose to lie, you expect society to be a society of liars. If you steal, you expect society to be a society of theives.

    Of course there are degrees. Could the world function if everybody told O.J. sized lies? Probably not. Could it function if everybody exagerrated their SAT scores? It already does.

    Now, what if a governing body acts as though its citizens have no human rights? What if they persecute people for expressing their thoughts, or practicing their religion, or for no reason at all? I would argue that in acting that way, they expect the very same, and while it is sad in a million ways that we have to kill people to explain to other people that killing still other people is wrong, the cycle had to start somewhere. Apparently it does not have to end always. And everybody is a hypocrite.

    So before anybody else mentions it, I want to point out that I know America has inequities. Inequities is a pretty crappy euphemism, actually. America has hardly done things right. There has not exactly been retribution for our persecution of African Americans or women, or almost any minority you can name.

    But retribution is more of a religious concept. In the grand scheme, I don't think there is a score card. It is just whether or not society, or the world, works. And it doesn't. And I think it is because people try way to hard to exclude others and find the most trivial reasons to oppress and kill each other. And as a result, they expect everybody else to do the exact same thing. We fundamentally f*cked.


    I am my own home. - Banana Yoshimoto
    [ Parent ]

    Kand and Pessimism (none / 0) (#99)
    by jabber on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 07:08:55 PM EST

    It sounds like you hold to the view that people are not fundamentally good at heart. I don't know if I agree, but then again, we are the sum of our experience and then some. Your world and mine are not likely to overlap completely.

    I tend to think that there are two types of people in the world (uh-oh...). :)
    There are those people who want a lot for themselves. They want money, they want nice toys, they want fine homes and clothes. They want good friends, and all those things that make life good. Then there are those people who want MORE than everyone else has. They would rather be the richest poor person than a billionaire among peers. They need to be superior to others at the cost of others. They will bring others down as a means of self-elevation.

    There's quite a bit in there to discuss, and I think it's all much too subjective to do via text - subtle meanings seem to get lost in text, and theres plenty in there. Suffice it to say that self-elevation at the cost of others is, IMO, the source of very many if not most, of the world's problems today.

    Now for Kant... I tend to look at it from another perspective. Rather than expecting all of society to be as I act, I act as I wish all of society would. It's about acting to set an example instead of accepting consequences. As SIGFPE pointed out, there is something I must be leaving out of the argument, because all I did was rephrase what you said, added a sprinkle of hope for the better, and it means something entirely different and inherently positive now. Interesting.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Right? Wrong. (3.28 / 7) (#23)
    by /dev/human on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 10:39:06 AM EST

    The right to swing my fist ends with your face.

    The United States military (a.k.a. the UN Police Force) will never force the issue of human rights violations if it is not economically advantageous to do so. China has a long-standing policy against human rights, yet trade is strong between China and the western world. So instead troops are sent into Kosovo because the world economy needs and desires a unified eastern Europe. On the flip side, the powers-that-be actually discourage action in Africa (where human rights atrocities are committed every minute) because a unified African nation would be a new world superpower. Think about it.

    Human rights are a political catch-phrase. If there no political or economical motivation to do otherwise, human rights violations will continue to be ignored, and sometimes, encouraged.


    There is more to life than increasing its speed.
        - Mahatma Gandhi
    You can't win (1.75 / 4) (#26)
    by Ken Arromdee on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:11:17 AM EST

    Every time we *do* intervene in Africa, lots of people complain that it's racist because we're willing to hurt black people but we're not willing to hurt white people.

    [ Parent ]
    Easy to both prove and disprove. (1.00 / 2) (#37)
    by blixco on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:10:57 PM EST

    We *are* racist. That's why you can't be caught Driving While Black in the U.S. (remember the rules for driving while black: always carry a white friend, never play your music, and leave your woman at home). I've never heard complaints about intervening in Africa based on racism....that would be a silly argument. We kill everyone, regardless of race, creed, or religion. As long as they aren't making us any money, we're perfectly OK with killing 'em. If they *are* making us money, then we're only OK with controlling them.

    -------------------------------------------
    The root of the problem has been isolated.
    [ Parent ]
    I submit you don't know what you're talking about. (4.50 / 4) (#31)
    by xtal on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:31:37 AM EST

    On the flip side, the powers-that-be actually discourage action in Africa (where human rights atrocities are committed every minute) because a unified African nation would be a new world superpower. Think about it.

    New world superpower? You are grossly misinformed about the state of the world today and what consitutes a superpower. (I'm not an american). The United States of America is effectively the most powerful nation that has ever existed on the planet, has the most powerful military that has ever existed, has the capability to exterminate all life as we know it, and protects the strongest and largest economy in the world. THEY are a superpower.

    China is not a superpower. Russia is no longer a superpower - the underlying economic underpinnings of the nation could not handle the expense of doing so. The EU is far from a superpower. Those countries are big, they have influence, but they are long, long way from a superpower. To claim that a collection of largely tribal governments (with some noticable exceptions), with minimal military capabilities, limited ability to process natural resources, is a potential superpower, and that human rights atrocities are tolerated to prevent this is stupid.

    The United States of America is the first world superpower, and it will be the last.

    [ Parent ]

    China? (2.66 / 3) (#74)
    by rusty on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:04:27 PM EST

    China isn't a superpower now, but I suspect they have the capacity to become one. Power marches relentlessly Westward....

    ____
    Not the real rusty
    [ Parent ]
    Ability to project power = superpower (3.00 / 1) (#130)
    by Dacta on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 09:48:52 PM EST

    A superpower is a world power which has the ability to use their power away from their own shores for significant periods of time.

    Both Russia and China can exterminate all life on earth, but only the US has the capability to project their power whereever they choose. It takes a long time to develop that power - a united Africa would be at least 25 years off it. They would first need an industrial economic system that could support it, and that took the Soviet Union under Stalin 15 years (from the 1930's until after WW2) to do. That comparison isn't really valid, either, because the USSR had WW2 which both set them back (economically) and pushed the foward technologicially.



    [ Parent ]
    I don't buy it (3.55 / 9) (#25)
    by Ken Arromdee on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 10:59:21 AM EST

    His first argument is that since we think it's okay to kill Serbians, but not to kill American citizens, that's obviously a double standard.

    His political views on Serbia are clouding his viewpoint. Imagine this with a non-Serbia example. If I believe that criminals should be locked up, but I would strenuously object to myself being locked up, am I being inconsistent? Of course not. Or to make the example even closer, if I believe that criminals should be locked up even when that means they won't be able to support their family from jail, but I would object to locking up an innocent person with a family, am I being inconsistent? After all, the children in their family are as blameless as any children hurt in Serbia. One also wonders if this guy would have made the same argument about sanctions against South Africa when we had those.

    His argument contains another hole: He says that rights are used to legitimize action, and it is impossible to renounce such rights. That may be technically true under some views of human rights, but it's meaningless. In the Serbia example, we're not protecting the rights of the Serbians, but of minorities like the Kosovars, and you can bet that they wouldn't renounce any rights that let us intervene in Serbia. In the example where healthy water is defined as containing contraceptives, a "right to healthy water" would mean that water with contraceptives would be available to everyone. It would *not* mean that everyone's *obliged* to use that water. You can still say "I have a right to healthy water, but I choose to drink unhealthy water anyway". Technically, you would not be renouncing the right, but the right wouldn't affect you.

    This would only be false for 1) intervention with incompetents (such as children), and 2) monopolies (such as a government-owned water system where no private supplier could reasonably compete).

    (By the way, does it annoy anyone else that kuro5hin uses permanent cookies? I can understand needing cookies for logins. But cookies stored on my machine? I don't need to have some advertiser a week later know I've been to kuro5hin.)

    re: cookies (none / 0) (#59)
    by dennis on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:17:18 PM EST

    The advertiser will only find out if kuro5hin uses third-party cookies from the same network the advertiser uses. If it's a kuro5hin.org cookie nobody else will see it.

    [ Parent ]
    cookies (none / 0) (#72)
    by rusty on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 03:54:27 PM EST

    The cookie K5 sets is is only viewable by 'www.kuro5hin.org' (not even "kuro5hin.org" generally). It sets one piece of information: a session ID. I use this to look up, in the DB, your user ID if you have one. Thus, when you hit the page, I can tell if you're a registered user (and which one) or an anonymous user. That's all they do.

    This reminds me that we were going to add a user preference as well that lets you determine how long to keep your cookie around (session-only, 1 month, forever, etc).

    Right now, the cookie lasts one month from the time you log in. I've tried really hard to make our cookie-usage very non-invasive, and non-annoying. It only sets a cookie if you don't have one, or if you log out, so if you have cookie notification on, it doesn't keep popping up "server would like to set yet another cookie" messages all the time.

    Oh yeah, and no advertisers have any access to this information, nor will they ever. If and when we do accept advertisers, I'll make sure that everyone knows about it, and that you're all clear on what (if any) information they are allowed to collect. None of that will be through the K5 cookie though, in any case.

    ____
    Not the real rusty
    [ Parent ]

    The only right is an enforceable right (3.85 / 7) (#27)
    by StrontiumDog on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:19:24 AM EST

    The article makes a number of points I agree with, especially by questioning the cultural relativity of human rights, but does not quite hit the spot as far as I am concerned: the only human rights that exist are the rights that can be enforced.

    The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Inalienable rights, endowed on every man by the Creator? Nice rhetoric (even though by the standards of that Bill's creators I personally wouldn't have been considered a human being). Even nicer to know that these men were privy to the Creator's opinions on human rights (and no, the Bible does not contain these words, so that particular piece of divine inspiration came from somewhere else).

    Farmgeek, for instance, believes that it is every man's personal responsibility to claim his rights, even though he may die in the process. This marvelous right, beloved of many an Internet libertarian geek, is known to others as the right of the strongest, a.k.a might is right, a.k.a cripples don't have rights because they're either too cowardly to fight for them, or too dead.

    Jabber says "Do unto another as you would they unto you" as being the one true law, which works fine until we run into one man's meat is another man's poison situations, such as the situation of the hetero man who "got done unto" in a gay orgy, or to use a less banal example, the basis of many a religious government.

    Western concepts of "human rights" are dominant right now because the West likes 'em, and has the economic and military muscle to enforce 'em (and to be fair: many non-Westerners don't find them too bad either). But any attempt to justify a set of basic human rights from "first principles", like many a Bill Of Rights worshipper does with the "we hold this to be self evident" cop-out is bound to fail. Nonsense. I hold it to be self-evident that the world shall bow down and acknowledge StrontiumDog as their mighty leader. That makes a lot more sense, in my book.

    Actually (3.33 / 3) (#34)
    by farmgeek on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:01:01 PM EST

    I may have been unclear there. My intent was to say that it is the individuals responsibility to claim the rights that they feel are theirs. If they don't claim that right it doesn't mean they lose it, merely that they choose not to excercise it. I did not intend to infer that might is right, although for practical purposes, posessing a right that cannot be excercised is rather pointless in my mind.

    As far as rights being endowed by the creator, that simply means that rights cannot be taken away by anyone else but that creator. Rights cannot be given by government, because if they derive from governmnet then they are not rights, they are license. Also, those rights may not be directly stated in the Bible, but they are inferred there, as is the right to self government.

    My conclusion (yes, there was one) was that the most fundamental right, which all the others hinge upon is the right to self government. If there is no right to self government then it is pointless to speculate about any others.

    (BTW, what is the proper contraction for it is? It's or its? I always confuse those, although I tend to favor the former.)


    [ Parent ]
    (OT) Contractions (none / 0) (#44)
    by zantispam on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:31:07 PM EST

    `It's' expands to `it is' and would be the contraction. As an example, `It's about to snow here'. On the other hand, its is neuter possessive. `Its collar is loose' (referring to an entity whose sex is unknown).

    The rule of thumb when it comes to this is to try expanding the proposed contraction into its different parts. If you can say it and have it make sense, it most likely will.

    Examples: `It is about to snow here' makes sense, while `It is collar is loose' does not.

    HTH, HAND :-)


    Free Duxup!
    [ Parent ]
    Relativism (3.33 / 3) (#30)
    by MaximumBob on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:30:20 AM EST

    If rights are declared by group biased in a particular direction this can adversly affect the rights of others.
    So with this in mind, is there a base level of human rights that do apply to all. And if not, why are we complaining when these rights are violated?

    This sounds to me like a case of absolute relativism. While you're certainly entitled to believe that there are no hard and fast rights anyone is entitled to, I would advise against it.

    I'm a college student, and, invariably, someone in any class I'm in will bring up the "we can't force our values on other people" relativist argument. Invariably, someone will give an example that proves them wrong. I won't name this example specifically, though -- if I did, someone would likely invoke Godwin's law. Maybe. This isn't usenet. But I digress.

    The point is that, while it's nice to say "I respect the values of other cultures," sometimes the implications are not so great. In the case of human rights, I think, at the very least, there should be a minimum standard of human rights.

    As someone else already mentioned, the author of the site you linked to appears to be more upset over the situation in Serbia than anything else. He has some valid points. But all the same, I think the American issue of human rights is a good one, and I'm still not necessarily opposed to enforcing them with the barrel of a gun, if necessary.

    Human Rights Minimums (3.33 / 3) (#38)
    by lucas on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:19:10 PM EST

    >I think, at the very least, there should be a minimum >
    >standard of human rights.

    Yea, I agree with this. I would seem that there is an ideal that can be attained as far as figuring out a minimum standard to use for human rights. If it is plunked into a full-blown philosophy, then this is where you run into some real problems and inconsistencies.

    In college, like you said, there was always someone who said that we should not enforce our "Judeo-Christian" (and it was always said as a euphemism) values on other people. The people who advocate this usually have never been out of their state, much less to another country.

    That is, it is one thing to say that you can respect another's culture in terms of their diet or way of daily life. It is another thing entirely to stand by and say you can respect another's culture while a woman is subjected to genital mutilation in front of you and has no one to run to because she has the same rights as a household pet.

    My wife lived in the middle east for three years as an American teenager while her dad worked for an oil company. The things she has seen and experienced cannot even be envisioned by the average American; listening to them has made me entirely thankful and indebted just to have been born here under our "mere Judeo-Christian" values.

    Lucas



    [ Parent ]
    Absolute relativism and true relativism (3.60 / 5) (#35)
    by Paul Crowley on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:06:43 PM EST

    As far as I can tell, I'm the only true moral relativist in a world full of two different flavours of moral absolutists.

    Traditional flavour: certain things are right, and others are wrong. In particular, killing people without good cause is wrong, and so are certain other things (fill in as necessary). These are simply facts about the world, like the sun being bigger than the earth - if you think I'm wrong, you disagree.

    Twisted flavour: there are no absolute moral values. If you act on the moral values you hold, you're imposing your personal morality on another person who may not share those views. And that's wrong - absolutely, morally wrong. It's a clear and obvious moral fact that imposing your morality on others is wrong - as clear as the sun being bigger than the earth.

    Now, I really don't believe that there are any moral facts at all: I don't believe there's any objective, external yardstick we can use to measure one moral system against another and see which is more "accurate". Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same - we work to build the world we'd like to see. My ethics, and my aesthetics, tell me that (say) stealing books from libraries and killing random strangers is wrong, and they tell me that if you try to do it, I'll try to stop you. When you challenge me, asking me why I feel justified in imposing my morals on you, I'll tell you that *that's what I feel like* - my personal ethics say it's OK under some circumstances for me to try and impose my morals on you. Since I don't believe there can be any higher court of morality, I'm not likely to take your attempts to appeal to one seriously.

    And yes, I do object strenuously sometimes if others try and impose their morality on me - say by trying to prevent me from having sex with men. Aren't I a hypocrite? After all, in *their* world view what I want to do is wrong, and so by their lights it's OK in those circumstances for them to impose their morality on me.

    The strict answer is that no, I'm not a hypocrite, because I'm not acting in breach of my own moral beliefs - I would consider my own actions to be wrong if I started trying to prevent all man from having sex with other man. But to throw this into perspective, supposing I was one of those people who tried to consistently assert that it's wrong to impose your morals on others. Could I now object when the homophobe tries to stand in the path of my sexuality? Absolutely not - not without trying to impose *my* moral rule - "you shouldn't impose moral rules" - on *them*!

    So, I think "twisted moral absolutism" is a result of confused thinking. But to be fair to its advocates, I think it's built around a kernel of true insight, which is that declaring *fully consensual* acts to be immoral is stupid. I suspect that when people complain of "imposed morality", it's morality imposed on fully consensual acts that they have in mind.
    --
    Paul Crowley aka ciphergoth. Crypto and sex politics. Diary.
    Certain Unalienable Rights (3.25 / 4) (#40)
    by r0cket on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:21:50 PM EST

    The article objects to the enforcement (uneven, chaotic, etc.) of human rights, not to the rights themselves. (Well, actually it confounds the two things quite a bit, but as far as I can tell that's what really irks the author.) I agree with some of the other posts that human rights are not objectively determined realities. Human rights are conventions decided on by civil societies in order to establish a framework for mutual cooperation and respect. The question of human rights enforcement (who should enforce, when should they enforce, how should they enforce, etc.) is a different proposition, and is a thorny issue. The uneven and spotty record of human rights enforcement is troubling and certainly has led to abuses. In any case I don't think we can abondon the idea of unalienable human rights. I think without the idea of human rights we would lack a framework for making judgements about many socio-political events and constructs.

    Uh... (3.15 / 13) (#42)
    by trhurler on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:26:02 PM EST

    No. Sorry, but rights are a concept that must be immune to choice. If not, then anyone who cares to shoot you in the head can choose to do so; after all, he chose that right. There are certain things about rights that most people don't know; for instance, they are not created or destroyed, governments can suppress but not eradicate them, they are a reflection of our need to be free to choose our own actions and our own way because it is necessary to our proper mode of existence. They are always limitations; for instance, a right to property means others cannot steal from you - it does not mean you have a right to be given property. This is why so called "rights" to a job, or a house, or healthcare, or whatever else are falsehoods; they impose upon others, not to refrain from violating them, but to provide for them, and in so doing they violate the rights of those others.

    Many people reject this view of rights because it is not consonant with their predetermined ethical and political viewpoints, but it is the only internally logically consistent model which has ever been proposed in the entire history of mankind. Either it is correct, or your rights consist of whatever you can force others to give you; the former is my position, and the latter is the position of practically everyone, but of course they don't admit it. (Think about lobbyists, political action committees, and so on - isn't what they're doing basically trying to force people to give them something? Of course it is. Think about those door to door preachy bastards who show up wanting to save your soul and won't go away until you pretend you agree with them. Think about all the people who buy something, use it once, and then return it, having taken value and offered nothing in return. Think about all the people who use unions, government rulings, personal friendships, or even outright blackmail to keep jobs they aren't actually doing. Coercion is the fundamental principle of most peoples' ethical and political views, but they will fight harder to avoid having to admit it than a redneck will to avoid admitting that he too can spot the good looking guys in a crowd. They will tell you their cause is just, and that "this is the only way people will listen," or "people just don't care," or whatever. What they mean is, people won't give them what they haven't earned.)

    For you relativists out there: the fact that you cannot find a best possible answer does not mean that it doesn't exist. The fact that people disagree on a matter does not mean there is no correct viewpoint. The fact that a culture has traditionally done something which is hurtful to its members, or even to some of its members, or even one of its members, does not mean that it is entitled to continue doing so. The fact that there were genuinely honest hardworking people in the Soviet government in the early part of this century who believed in what they were doing does not make their starvation of millions of people right. The fact is, what you do is not what you say: you will say that "American imperialists" have no right to screw with someone else's culture, but you will also excoriate those same Americans if they don't step up and provide the military force to solve problems in the nation next door to you, or the money and programs to stamp out a cultural practice YOU happen to find abhorrent(such as, say, forced genital mutliation.) You are the worst hypocrites ever to walk the earth; you use relativism as a shield for views you agree with, all the while saying that anyone who doesn't agree with you obviously has a closed mind and is heartless and wants babies to starve and little girls to be chopped up by old women and slaves to be traded. I am not a religious man, but some days, I wish I was, because the thought of you people burning for eternity would be a very satisfying and comforting one.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    Religion of rights (1.50 / 2) (#73)
    by speek on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 03:59:16 PM EST

    Your position isn't any better than other dogmatic religions. It's based on an unsupportable assertion:

    ...our need to be free to choose our own actions and our own way because it is necessary to our proper mode of existence ... and defended with strongly stated opinions that you are right and others wrong.

    ...but it is the only internally logically consistent model which has ever been proposed in the entire history of mankind

    I could quote more, but I'll leave it as an excercise for the thoughtful reader. But, I'll leave with one more point:

    Sorry, but rights are a concept that must be immune to choice. If not, then anyone who cares to shoot you in the head can choose to do so

    I don't know why they "must" be immune from choice - it sounds as though this is a plea from you to the universe (please, it must be so). Second, anyone can indeed choose to shoot you in the head. That's a fact. Your religion of rights can't change that. Coercion, however, does seem to have some effect on the problem :-)

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Semantic games are boring... (1.00 / 1) (#91)
    by trhurler on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:31:41 PM EST

    Your position isn't any better than other dogmatic religions. It's based on an unsupportable assertion:
    Almost every time you respond to one of my posts, you say the same thing, and every time, I respond in precisely the same manner. There is a factual claim at stake: either our nature justifies rights or it does not. I assert that it does, and I provide as reason that we must, as individuals, think, choose, and act, and that these things require certain freedom, which freedom is codified by "rights." If you disagree, feel free to point out why, but simply asserting that I am being dogmatic because I claim that something is true does not do much good. There are certainly things you think are true also, and you are not dogmatic for your belief, as one example, that you are communicating with someone via a web forum. Factual matter != dogmatism.
    it sounds as though this is a plea from you to the universe
    No. Actually, it is an argument against the idea that rights are a matter of whim or decision. The assertion is that they are a matter of discovery; this is our nature, and these are the requirements of living properly given that, and so on.
    anyone can indeed choose to shoot you in the head.
    But he cannot claim any moral or legal justification for doing so unless I provide it for him(by, say, putting him in a self defense situation.) If rights are a matter of whim or choice, then he CAN assert that his rights include killing me, or doing anything else he likes, and in fact, nobody's rights will mean anything except that he opened his mouth and stated them. Your attempt to brand me as a religious fanatic is all well and good in the sense that it is good to avoid religions, but if you never commit yourself to anything at all, then you have absolutely no protection against anything at all, and that means that the most vicious, violent, soulless bastards will always "win" at the expense of everyone else. When should you commit yourself to something? Well, factual knowledge is indeed possible, and that's the key: are we, or are we not thinking beings who are not born knowing what we need or how to get it? Are we, or are we not capable of learning and then using that to advantage? Are we, or are we not incapable of making effective use of our minds in the face of violence? These questions are pretty basic, and we all already know the answers.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Inalienable rights (1.50 / 4) (#94)
    by Miniluv on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 06:27:34 PM EST

    I'm gonna put myself out on a limb here and state my belief that "rights" as such do not exist on their own. Free speech is not a gauranteed natural right, if it were there wouldn't be an issue regarding it. Some countries have chosen, sometimes by their electorates, that free speech is indeed a right they wish to gaurantee. The US is one of those countries, and while I value free speech and see it as a "right" in the legal sense promulgated by the US Gov't in support of it's Constitution, I do not feel entitled to it merely by existing.
    Rights are a rather nebulous concept, and one that is open to a LOT of debate which means they can't be Universal or inalienable. If they were Universal everyone would naturally accept them as fact and there'd be no more debate. There's no proveable basis that I have any more right to free spech than I do to free oral sex, both are merely choices human beings can make when forming governments.
    There are people on this earth who believe strongly in the need for Government to supervise it's citizens, much like a protective parent and their children. While I do not wish to live under such a Gov't, I don't think I have inalienable rights that prevent such a government from existing, and that seems to be part of the thrust of your argument.

    "Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
    [ Parent ]
    Did you read any of what I wrote? (2.00 / 3) (#95)
    by trhurler on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 06:38:52 PM EST

    I specifically rebutted almost every one of your posts in my comments to which you replied! Here are the highlights:
    Some countries have chosen, sometimes by their electorates, that free speech is indeed a right they wish to gaurantee.
    If they get to choose, then there is no right, because they can take it away any time they like in any circumstance they like. Freedom of speech your way is freedom of -popular- speech. Note that you do not need a right in order to say what is popular; you need it in order to say what is unpopular.
    Rights are a rather nebulous concept,
    Only to people who have never read the better works on the subject. Which is to say, almost everyone today. Look up some enlightenment thinkers for starters, if you care.
    one that is open to a LOT of debate which means they can't be Universal or inalienable.
    This is a fallacy of relativism: debate does not imply that the subject at hand is unclear in fact, but rather that it is unclear in the sight of some debaters.
    If they were Universal everyone would naturally accept them as fact and there'd be no more debate.
    Universal does not mean "obvious" or "unanimously agreed on." It is considered universally true that matter is made up of quarks. Nevertheless, this view was anything but obvious or unanimously agreed on not so long ago, and still isn't today in some places.
    free oral sex
    Would be a guarantee of being GIVEN something. Free speech is merely the freedom of not having something taken away. This is a crucial distinction in rights theory.
    There are people on this earth who believe strongly in the need for Government to supervise it's citizens,
    So then you think slavery was legitimate because the majority of people supported it? That's what you're saying, you know.

    The fact is, a majority is merely a form of power, and might does not make right. If government defines rights, then rights cannot protect you from the government, and in this case, the government can do anything it wants to you. In this case, the sane course of action is to destroy any and all governments; is this what you want to do?

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    "Legitimacy" is the key (none / 0) (#113)
    by speek on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 01:09:00 PM EST

    So then you think slavery was legitimate because the majority of people supported it?

    What makes something "legitimate"? And, even if we both agree it's not legitimate, does that make the bad thing go away? No - that takes force and action.

    You have an interesting argument that suggests that our "rights" are derivable from our nature (and, as usual, we'll have to set aside any argument about what our nature is). However, you ignore our circumstance, and I'm not sure why. This is one thing makes you dogmatic. You assert that our nature is universally given and completely independent of our circumstance. As though a community living in a fragile, enclosed moon colony would best be served by the exact same laws and concept of "rights" as the people of the state of Montana. To me, that's absurd, and thus, it also suggests that any concept of "rights" that is fixed and religious in nature is as dangerous as any other religion.

    Furthermore, you seem fairly dogmatic about asserting what our nature is. Your statements about our are almost entirely teleological (ie we are meant to think, therefore, we must be free to do so), which I don't find to be a particularly objective way of looking at things. However, there is no other basis for rights that I can see other than teleology, which I take as a cue to reject the possibility that there are any universally true "rights". Doesn't mean there can't be locally true rights, but then, we're leaving your comfort zone of Truth (with a capital "T").

    Another aspect of your statements that strikes me as dogmatic is that you strongly imply that your current conception of the proper rights is the best possible conception. It leaves no room for the idea that a better ideas might come along. The result of this attitude is that one cannot argue with you about any one particular "right" that you believe in, because such argument is taken by you as an attack on a universal truth, which couldn't possibly be valid, and so you reject it automatically.

    And lastly, you are annoyingly dogmatic in your rhetoric - constantly suggesting that anyone who disagrees with you is a relativist. I hardly think that because I suggest that "might makes right", and that we live in a world where people do, in fact, kill each other, that that makes me a relativist. Seems to me it makes me more objective than you. Just because I don't believe in God, nor "rights", nor morality, doesn't make me a relativist. There are other things I believe, just not those. I believe that makes me a "realist".

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Moonbase vs. Montana (none / 0) (#126)
    by AEtherean on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 07:35:51 PM EST

    I'm curious about your Moonbase vs. Montana example.

    You use the words "laws" and "(concepts of) rights," but since these are not the same thing, we should limit this debate to rights alone.

    With this in mind, could you give an example of a fundamental right that you believe trhurler recognizes that would apply to someone in one of these societies, but not the other?

    [ Parent ]
    private property (none / 0) (#135)
    by speek on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 09:04:35 AM EST

    Private property rights on a moonbase would probably not be what they are here in the US. The restrictions on the citizens would be drastic, and their freedom to do as they like with their own property would be restricted - kind of like zoning laws out of control. Furthermore, assuming extreme limits on certain resources, the "right" of a capitalist to own more than he/she could use would probably not be tolerated. In other words, many resources would probably be rationed, and not "ownable".

    I'm not sure what other freedoms trhurler espouses, but a common one is right to privacy - of one's thoughts and private actions. Consider a world where nano-technology has progressed to the point where creating such things in one's basement is cheap and easy. A self-replicating set of nanobots could be world-threatening. A mistake analogous to writing an infinite loop could be the end of everything. How much right to privacy would society tolerate then?

    I think you are wrong when you say laws and concepts of rights are different. Rights do not exist to be discovered - they are invented to serve a purpose and codified either in law or in social norms. We can talk in the abstract about what should be a right, but I reject the idea that it is a right a priori to laws and/or norms making it so.

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Toleration is the wrong notion... (none / 0) (#144)
    by trhurler on Mon Nov 20, 2000 at 01:46:47 PM EST

    You don't get to decide, you see. The claim is that these rights exist, regardless. It is quite possible that you and your goonsquad will get some jackboots and some guns and violate peoples' rights, but this does not mean they do not possess those rights. You don't like rich people on the moon? Well, maybe you can seize their property, or maybe you can evict them, but this does not make it right for you to do so, no matter how strongly you may feel; being in the majority and feeling righteous does not make you special.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Unproven claims (none / 0) (#149)
    by speek on Tue Nov 21, 2000 at 01:18:29 PM EST

    You don't get to decide, you see

    Oh, I forgot, the trhurler religion has already laid down the commandments for me. My independent thinking is dangerous and needs to be squashed.

    Your remark about goonsquads is amusing considering the only people you need to fear such from are dogmatic, rigid people such as yourself. You are misguided in your fear of relativists - it's the absolutists who do the harm.

    The claim is that these rights exist...

    And I dispute that claim. The rest of your silly rant assumes the truth of your claim.

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Oh really? (none / 0) (#151)
    by trhurler on Tue Nov 21, 2000 at 04:17:39 PM EST

    You are misguided in your fear of relativists - it's the absolutists who do the harm.
    If this is so, then please explain why the erosion of liberties in the US has been entirely at the hands of relativists.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Explain further (none / 0) (#152)
    by speek on Tue Nov 21, 2000 at 06:04:21 PM EST

    List some "liberties" you feel have been eroded, and for each one, explain your view of the cause of the erosion, showing why you think the people responsible were being relativistic in their actions.

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Ok (none / 0) (#153)
    by trhurler on Tue Nov 21, 2000 at 07:11:02 PM EST

    First, guns. We are constantly bombarded with statistics taken out of context, and never presented with a complete view. Most peoples' "opinions" on this subject are nothing but emotional outbursts. A few principled defenders of gun freedoms exist, and a few principled opponents, but the legislation which gets passed is always supported most solidly by people who honestly don't want to do away with guns - they just want to find a way to solve this or that particular problem, taken totally out of context. If that means a slow erosion of liberty to the point where nobody will have guns except those who can least be trusted to use them wisely(ie, the police,) why should they care? They didn't do it; they just passed one little part, which they claim, according to their non-absolute standards, is successful.

    Second, speech. Do you think it is absolutists who banned the Nazis AND the Communists in Germany? Of course not; there is no such thing as an absolute centrist. These are pragmatists, and pragmatists are relativists.

    Third, free association. This is the least respected freedom today; we are guaranteed it in the US, but this does not prevent every government in the nation from requiring that you get explicit approval before exercising it. If they wanted to similarly license or permit printing presses or web sites, they'd be laughed or killed out of office, but nobody seems to understand what free association is about except the victims, and for them it is generally too late. Do you know why these permits are generally required? It is so the police and so on will have advance notice of events sponsored by "extremist" groups. "Extreme" in this context is a word used only by relativists; it would make no sense for an absolutist to use the term, because it applies equally well to him.

    Fourth, property. In the name of everything from convenience to "the public good," politicians have eroded property rights to the point where I can be held liable for you breaking your leg on my property even if I had no trespassing signs up, because I didn't explicitly warn you of the danger that happened to break your leg! The government can seize your property, paying what -it- says is fair market value -if- it wants to(otherwise, see "civil forfeiture," which is a total annihilation of all property concepts,) and leaving you out in the cold. Do you think some absolutist did this? Of course not; there are no such beasts in the US government, and the few that even come close are libertarian in nature, but even if there were such beasts, they would not have done this; either they would be in favor of property or against it - the middle road does not appeal to absolutists.

    Fifth, social issues. This has actually been getting better in recent years, but this is generally in spite of legislators rather than because of them. There are unconstitutional laws against everything from letting your kids drink in your own home to poorly-defined "sodomy"(where sodomy is any sex act except the one we all learned about in middle school, even if you're married,) to laws prohibiting the use of various illegal substances. Legislators recently have focussed on using the law to force people to rate content and "protect children," usually at the expense of everyone, including the children. Fortunately, the courts have thrown out the worst of this garbage and made much of the rest impossible to enforce, but have a good long look at Cleveland's history of "smut prosecutions" sometime.

    Sixth, business. Antitrust was passed for reasons not absolute nor relative in any real sense; it was passed by corrupt legislators to bolster failing businesses and punish certain others, because the failing businesses belonged to friends of the legislators. However, today it is applied in ways they never dreamed of. It is a catchall; if you are successful, you can be beaten up by the government for it. There is no universal standard for prosecutions, and when asked, you'll often hear statements like "well, these things are very subjective, and we have to judge on a case by case basis." In other words, relative legality. Without it, antitrust would never be used, because it would be OF no use to the thugs who use it as a way to achieve egalitarianism in the marketplace, which is, of course, anything BUT egalitarian by nature.

    Seventh, privacy. These relativists weigh the "need" of the government to know everything I say and do against my "need" to be left alone in my own home, and every time they do this, they decide to invade my privacy a little more. Go figure.

    Eighth, and related to property closely, taxes. The government takes a bit more of our money each decade, on average. There are a couple of notable drops, but in general, tax rates as a percentage of total income given to the government have been steadily rising since the founding of the US. Thank relativists, weighing the "needs" of this or that group against the "need" to keep what I earn.

    The problem with relativists is that government left to itself tends to grow, and relativists do not have the firm principles and willingness to take a stand no matter the cost that is necessary to prevent that. Some of them side with the government, but even those who do not cannot stop it, because they lack the strength.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Good post (4.00 / 1) (#157)
    by speek on Wed Nov 22, 2000 at 01:57:23 PM EST

    Thanks for the quality response. Firstly, can I suggest we use the term "pragmatist" rather than "relativist"? i think it more accurately captures what you oppose, and doesn't suffer from the paradoxes that relativism does. It's really hard to say exactly what relativism is, because it immediately will oppose that, if it's true relativism :-)

    I'm going address your points in no particular order, but I'd like to point something out before I do. You and I have very different basic assumptions and perspectives. Very often, what that means is that you and I can both say true things, and then proceed to disagree anyway. I'm going to concentrate on my opinion of what "harm" is, which is what I originally said (that absolutists are the ones who do the harm). You then changed the vocabulary to "liberty", as in who has caused the loss of liberty. You did this, I think, because you value liberty above all else - specifically individual liberty - so it immediately strikes you as the most harmful when it is compromised. I value liberty, but neither as greatly as you do, nor in the same sense of the word. And, I take a pragmatic view of it's meaning.

    Second, speech. Do you think it is absolutists who banned the Nazis AND the Communists in Germany? Of course not; there is no such thing as an absolute centrist. These are pragmatists, and pragmatists are relativists.

    Some people think that certain types of speech can cause harm. State-sponsored religion, for example. Falsely inciting panic. Libel, slander. Perjury. There are many examples. Speech is limited with the same theory that fist-swinging is limited. Your free to do so until you smack my nose - at which point you've just violated my "right" to an unbroken nose. We can argue about where the boundaries are, how much harm is too much, and how much must be accepted, but those are pragmatic arguments.

    Alternatively, absolutists are the ones responsible for truly harmful limitations of free-speech, as in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, the Catholic church, China, etc. Would your absoutist stance on this particular issue be a horror on this scale? Probably not, but neither is the pragmatist approach. The harm it's causing is that people are wanting to say stupid things because they are told they can't. It's a phase and we'll grow out of it. That's the beauty of pragmatism - a bad decision is never final.

    First, guns.

    First, many of the people against guns are so with an absolutist attitude - that guns are morally wrong and should be banned altogether. On the other side are those who demand guns not be regulated at all. Both sides are ridiculous. Should I be allowed to own a division of tanks? How about nuclear weapons? Biological weapons? Chemical? Do you, trhurler, draw a line somewhere, or not? Should the government not have a monopoly on the use of force, or should we all have rights to do so?

    Again, these are pragmatic questions, and the pragmatist attempt to achieve a balance between the two extremes is causing less harm then either of the two extremes would. Liberty is all well and good, but being free to drive a tank into downtown NY is probably not doing much for the liberty of others there. You probably draw the line a lot "further back" than most democratic politicians, but so be it. You can still own your guns, and no one of import is even suggesting they be taken away.

    Third, free association ... Do you know why these permits are generally required?

    I'm afraid I didn't quite follow this one - you never explained what these permits are. As for the police being given mandates that extend beyond those granted by existing laws, that usually occurs as the result of some other problem (like drug prohibition, the bogey-man of "national security", or other such delusional activities). We should talk about the problem that's the cause, I think.

    Fifth, social issues ... sodomy ... laws prohibiting the use of various illegal substances ... law to force people to rate content and "protect children,"

    Religious Right. Drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, abortion - these are causes of the religious absolutists. You are blaming the legislatures for being weak, and indeed, many are, but we voted for them. And these issues are driven by an absolutist attitude that certain activities are morally wrong and should be outlawed, even though there is no violation of another's rights, body, or mind. A pragmatic attitude would never prohibit marijuana, nor pornography as a whole, nor alcohol, and not abortion. Neither would it allow these things entirely unrestricted. The pragmatists are caught between the absolutist attitudes, and thank god they are generally in power, and not either of the extremes, else things would get worse. Actually, with drugs and abortion, things are pretty bad from that point of view - the extremists are in power. But that's only supporting my position.

    Seventh, privacy

    It's a problem, but you're aiming at the wrong cause. Business is the the culprit - they seek to gain by knowing more about you than you would want them to. Should we or should we not have privacy laws? Wouldn't they represent a pragmatic approach to the problem? A lot of what the government does is protect citizens from those who are more powerful. Sometimes the protection is onerous, but the alternative of a completely hands-off government would be more detrimental. Again, the pragmatists are hardly causing a whole lotta harm here. An absolutist would.

    Sixth, business. Antitrust ... government left to itself tends to grow

    I put these two thoughts together because it seems you need a reality check. Every power structure left to itself tends to grow. Monopolies do tend to form, and they do tend to cause harm. We need checks on all power structures. The government has checks built-in and due to members being elected. Sometimes these checks are less than adequate, but at least we don't have a dictatorship, which is, after all, what a good absolutist would want?

    Isn't democracy the ultimate in pragmatism? It suggests it's more important to be malleable and tolerable, at the risk of not being exactly right, than it is to be fixed and "right", at the risk of causing wholesale suffering. Do you support the idea of increasing the democratic forces in the US (as in direct democracy, removing the electoral college,etc), or do you fear the rule of the masses?

    Fourth, property Well, here we are again - property. Going into a whole debate on this subject would comprise an entire essay in itself (and not one that ends in 1000 words or less), so I'll take a pass here. Go read my book ;-) (no, I don't really have a book). Anyway, the absolutist stance that all property should be privately owned leaves me with questionable access to anything beyond my front yard. It leaves me at the mercy of those who own all the land. Strikes me as bad. Again, thank god for some pragmatism. No, it's not perfect, but neither is it disastrous.

    When I said harm, I was thinking of Nazi Germany (an absolute dictatorship that went very awry), the Vietnam war (capitalist absolutists gone out-of-control), American slavery (European ethnocentricity at its best), the Inquisition, Witch burning, McCarthyism, the inability of Jews and Arabs to get along, etc. A little perspective is needed, I think. If your listed items are the worst injustices we have to face, I'll take it. I'll work to improve, I'll fight to improve it (the pragmatist doesn't rule out any potential solution, even war). But the move to an absolute "principle" is the first move of intellectual weariness in the face of overwhelming complexity, and it is the precursor to withdrawal from the fray.

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Well, (none / 0) (#158)
    by trhurler on Wed Nov 22, 2000 at 07:00:45 PM EST

    I tried two times to reply to this, and both times netscape died on me before I could finish editing my reply. I'm now royally pissed, and -absolutely- ready to go find the idiots responsible for writing the code and smack them around.

    The short form, which I'll probably actually be able to post, is that 95% of the things you list as absolutist offenses were committed by pragmatic politicians who used absolutism's image because it made for a "good cause" with lots of emotional appeal.

    Oh, for a web browser with decent layout that didn't crash on OpenBSD... (and no, I will not switch systems, so don't anyone even suggest it; odds are I've written code on and/or for your favorite system, and I dislike all of them:)

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Undecided (none / 0) (#159)
    by IcyQuizdom on Wed Nov 22, 2000 at 07:05:04 PM EST

    I'm fascinated by this discussion. I find myself swayed one way or the other in certain cases, but I'm unable to "pick a side" on the whole.

    I'm interested in reading more about the philosophies behind each of your opinions. I was hoping you could both recommend what you consider to be the best book regarding your position in this debate.

    Thanks.

    [ Parent ]
    good books to read (none / 0) (#160)
    by speek on Wed Nov 22, 2000 at 08:40:14 PM EST

    Hmmm, good question. My background is as a philosophy major, though I now spend my time programming. I find the philosophy background very helpful for that, surprisingly enough.

    For pragmatism, read John Dewey and Richard Rorty. Rorty in particular, for a contemporary viewpoint. "Achieving our Country" is a nice short book that's very easy to read. William James is also a great figure in the history of American Pragmatism.

    For economics, I know less technically, but I would recommend either reading Marx or reading about him. Also, David Hume is interesting. Many also suggest reading Ludwig Von Mises, but I have a hard time finding books by him.

    I'd also suggest searching the web about "anarcho-socialism". It's an interesting idea that supports no centralized governing agency, but also the elimination of capitalism.

    Anyway, I'm glad someone besides me and trhurler are reading these silly battles he and I get into! ;-)

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Sanity..and relativism... (none / 0) (#118)
    by Miniluv on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 04:14:47 PM EST

    First off, yes, I did read what you wrote, and I don't agree with it, which is why I wrote my rebuttals to your points. Neither of us is inherently right in this situation, it's open to an awful lot of debate, though you do make it rather hard to bother with the seeming condescension coming through in your posts. I apologize if I'm misreading you, as text is rather vague on conveying nuance.
    Second, no, I do not believe the sane course of action is the destruction of all government, nor do I see how my belief advocates that. What I am saying is that I do not think that in a black and white sense any particular action is more right or wrong than any other, mostly because it's impossible to consider them in that sense.
    Your example of slavery violates MY moral code, a code derived mostly from emotion rather than logic. A fair portion of my morals I can logically support and explain, but some of them I cannot. Not because I decide to cling to them in spite of overwhelming evidence, but just because logic has no real application to the subject at hand.
    Words like "universal" and "inalienable" bring an awful lot of baggage to the table, baggage I think encumbers a discussion like this to the point of being barely manageable. Using them in reference to things which people have opinions on treads rather close to religious edicts, which justify these opinions as divinely inspired, because if so many people think it, where else can it have come from?
    As far as being considered universally true that matter is made up of quarks, I can also point out that at times it was considered universally true that matter was made up of entirely different things. In a world which we do not fully understand, all truth is relevant. I cannot offer indisputable proof of my own existence, nor can I offer indisputable proof of my own identity. In fact, I can't think of a single thing I CAN indisputably prove with the evidence we have at hand.
    Yeah, I'm a skeptic when it comes to a lot of things, especially sciene. This skepticism is born out of history, in that we continually revise our accepted view of "reality" as new evidence comes to be discovered, and while I don't disagree with the prevailing scientific views of today, I recognize them as being views and not indisputable truth.
    This is even more applicable in a moral, logical, or rights discussion, because there is no hard and fast evidence of ANYTHING. You cannot hook someone up to a device and measure their moral code for easy classification. My sig tells a fair bit about how I feel about morality, I've found that a goodly portion of my personal moral code falls in line with the writings of Heinlein and people like him.

    "Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
    [ Parent ]
    Quarks and Morality (3.00 / 1) (#127)
    by AEtherean on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 07:54:01 PM EST

    I agree that we can never know for certain that matter is made up of quarks. This does not mean that matter is, or is not, in fact made up of quarks.


    -----

    "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
    -- Arthur Schopenhauer

    [ Parent ]
    Don'tcha love that logic? (none / 0) (#128)
    by Miniluv on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 08:18:52 PM EST

    I know exactly what you mean, and it fairly well crystalizes how I look at it. Knowing for certain in some ways becomes separate from caring if you know, in that you must deal with the accepted truth of the statement witout worry as to it's validity or else you never accomplish anything.
    I guess I just don't know that the same reasoning holds up in the discussion at hand though...maybe I'm wrong, dunno for sure though.
    "Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
    [ Parent ]
    Moral relativism (none / 0) (#84)
    by bjrubble on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:42:54 PM EST

    They are always limitations; for instance, a right to property means others cannot steal from you - it does not mean you have a right to be given property. This is why so called "rights" to a job, or a house, or healthcare, or whatever else are falsehoods; they impose upon others, not to refrain from violating them, but to provide for them, and in so doing they violate the rights of those others.

    So you have the right to property, and the right to take all you can finagle from the world around you and never give anything back. But you haven't explained where those rights come from, other than some hand-waving about "proper mode of existence" -- whatever that means.

    For you relativists out there: the fact that you cannot find a best possible answer does not mean that it doesn't exist.

    Funny that you should use relative language here. "A best possible answer" is firmly within the scope of relativism. If you truly disagree with moral relativism you would believe that there is "the correct answer."

    The fact is, what you do is not what you say: you will say that "American imperialists" have no right to screw with someone else's culture, but you will also excoriate those same Americans if they don't step up and provide the military force to solve problems in the nation next door to you, or the money and programs to stamp out a cultural practice YOU happen to find abhorrent(such as, say, forced genital mutliation.)

    And you would do what? You've hit upon the great (and relatively obvious, IMO) weakness of moral relativism. Too bad you seem more interested in flaming than discussion.

    [ Parent ]
    Relativism and other things... (1.50 / 2) (#88)
    by trhurler on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:12:38 PM EST

    So you have the right to property, and the right to take all you can finagle from the world around you and never give anything back. But you haven't explained where those rights come from, other than some hand-waving about "proper mode of existence" -- whatever that means.
    The right to property is not the right "to take all you can." It is the right to make all you can. And yes, I mean make, as in create. There is a difference, and you will see it if you consider how you would be living today if it weren't for all those rich bastards with factories and office parks and so on.

    As for "hand-waving," this is a natural rights argument. It says that we have our rights because of the kind of thing we are - we make choices, and we have to think in order to make the right ones, and we have to act in order to benefit from them. This requires certain freedom, and thus, in order to live properly, we must have rights, which are the specific description of that freedom.
    Funny that you should use relative language here. "A best possible answer" is firmly within the scope of relativism.
    If you want to argue about choice of words, find someone who cares. However, I will point out that in many cases, a "best possible" answer and a "correct" answer are identical, the difference being that most people will recognize the former and try to pretend the latter doesn't exist. To say that all things have a correct answer in the sense you want to use the term in is to say that there are never any tradeoffs in the world, and everyone knows that is false, but tradeoffs do not eliminate the fact that for any given question in any given context, there are zero or more correct answers and an infinite number of incorrect answers.
    And you would do what?
    I'd quit pretending moral relativism is a theory of worth, and start acting on the premise that what you would probably refer to as enlightened self interest(I think the enlightened part is redundant, and that people who are destructive are -not- being truly self interested,) is the proper moral theory. As for how this applies to politics, the US would not intervene in foriegn affairs unless either it was asked to do so by the country in question and decided that this was worthwhile from its perspective or the intervention was necessary to a solve a genuine problem of US security - not a shortage of this or that commodity, or a matter of a friendly or unfriendly government, or anything like that, but an actual threat to US territory or citizens. This is a purely defensive posture. The thing is, the very people who scream at us for "interfering" in their affairs would scream even louder if we quit sending free shipments of cash and grain and pulled our military home. Then they'd have to actually pay their own way; horror of all horrors!
    Too bad you seem more interested in flaming than discussion.
    I discuss politely with some people. However, I find that usually if I don't take a risk of offending some people when stating a position, most people will find nothing they care enough to respond to. The fact is, most of us are programmers and system administrators, which makes us lazy. You seem polite; you're not going to get flames from me. However, I will say that I am so disgusted with the average person at this point in time that I really don't worry about offending people I don't know; 99% of them are idiots anyway, and of the remaining few, most are good at one thing and have conditioned themselves to be incapable of thinking about anything else in order to make life amongst the terminally clueless more tolerable.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    Okay (none / 0) (#104)
    by bjrubble on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:00:56 PM EST

    To be honest, this is more reasonable and thoughtful than I expected. Consider me chastised...

    I'd quit pretending moral relativism is a theory of worth, and start acting on the premise that what you would probably refer to as enlightened self interest

    A lot of the time I consider "human rights" to be a sugar-coating on "enlightened self-interest" -- Europe, for example, is more "useful" to the US without people slaughtering each other in the Balkans and sending thousands of refugees into other countries. In the same way, I am taken by the ways in which game theory has demonstrated "altruism" and much of conventional morality to be successful strategies in interpersonal interaction. In particular, the fact that the connection between the two is not obvious gives me pause when considering "self-interest" to be useful as an explicit guide for behavior.

    Basically, the problem with this is that our brains are hardwired to think otherwise. The ivory tower denizens who postulate that, for example, babies are parasites on their mothers or people have genetic plans on their mates, are IMO pretending to stand outside the system in which they are actually fundamentally mired. Mothers willingly give themselves to their offspring. You can claim all you want that it's not their "free will" or "choice" but in fact a fundamental piece of what they are revolves around this.

    We are humans. We are social animals. Contrary to what some people want to believe we are NOT logical. One of our characteristics is that we generally have difficulty watching suffering. In an abstract, academic sense there are "reasons" for this, but that doesn't change our visceral reactions, or the fact that those visceral reactions are more motivating than any theoretical ideas. In this sense, I feel that "human rights" is the only way to convince people that what is actually in their self-interest is worth working for, the same way that the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule can be the only way to encourage self-interested behavior in individuals.

    I think the enlightened part is redundant, and that people who are destructive are -not- being truly self interested

    Yet it happens all the time. If I have a fundamental problem with the libertarian ideals, it's the notion that people actually recognize their own self-interest. The evidence to the contrary is in the news every day.

    As for how this applies to politics, the US would not intervene in foriegn affairs unless either it was asked to do so by the country in question and decided that this was worthwhile from its perspective or the intervention was necessary to a solve a genuine problem of US security

    I would ask two questions:

    1. How do you determine the legitimacy of a country, and hence whether a request for intervention is worth your attention?
    2. How do you define a "problem of US security?"

    I can see what you're getting at, but I can't help but feel that you're pushing the whole thing onto another set of definitions, from "human rights" to "interest" and "security." Fundamentally, is it in "our interest" to prevent genocide and repression in other places? Seems like it really depends on whom you ask.

    [ Parent ]
    Human nature (none / 0) (#143)
    by trhurler on Mon Nov 20, 2000 at 01:42:21 PM EST

    A lot of the time I consider "human rights" to be a sugar-coating on "enlightened self-interest"
    Do not mistake my support of negative rights for support of the inane crap that goes as "human rights" among government figures these days.
    In the same way, I am taken by the ways in which game theory has demonstrated "altruism" and much of conventional morality to be successful strategies in interpersonal interaction.
    If it wasn't for the fact that this isn't true, I'd agree with you. Game theory has demonstrated that IF being nice to people causes them to be nice to you, then you can accrue benefits by doing so - and that is all it has demonstrated. It certainly has not achieved the goal of justifying altruism, which is the doctrine that the morality of an action depends on the recipient being someone other than yourself. Certainly I am nice to many people, and they are nice to me, and that's grand. I am more generous than most people I know. However, I do not act against what I perceive as my own interest - ever. I am particularly uninterested in game theory explanations because of the fact that usually, acting randomly is as good a strategy as any in a game theory scenario, and we all know this isn't true of real life; acting truly randomly would get you killed inside of an hour.
    Basically, the problem with this is that our brains are hardwired to think otherwise. . . . Mothers willingly give themselves to their offspring.
    This is a bold claim, and all the moreso since not everyone fits this description. What about the mothers who abandon babies, or neglect children in favor of a career? The idea that altruism, or even just being nice, is hardwired into our brains is not reflected in the reality around us.
    Contrary to what some people want to believe we are NOT logical.
    We certainly have a logical capacity. The choice to act on it is, sadly, all too infrequent.
    If I have a fundamental problem with the libertarian ideals, it's the notion that people actually recognize their own self-interest.
    Given the education they get today, it is a wonder they can read traffic signs. They're taught not to think, not to claim, not to assert in any way, but simply to accept, regurgitate, and keep moving. My education, important though education is, was the worst time I expect to see before I die. Fortunately, my mind survived more or less intact, but I see the damage done every day in the people around me and old friends that I barely recognize anymore - people who used to be bright, creative, independent thinkers, and are now little more than office furniture with an income. I deliberately skipped the political stuff, largely because it is less interesting to me and because I think that it is derivative; if you settle other issues, you can figure out the government stuff from them, and if not, then you have no hope of really making progress.

    --
    'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

    [ Parent ]
    moral relativism (none / 0) (#147)
    by klamath on Mon Nov 20, 2000 at 09:59:48 PM EST

    The fact is, what you do is not what you say: you will say that "American imperialists" have no right to screw with someone else's culture, but you will also excoriate those same Americans if they don't step up and provide the military force to solve problems in the nation next door to you, or the money and programs to stamp out a cultural practice YOU happen to find abhorrent(such as, say, forced genital mutliation.)

    It's interesting you seem to be able to say what I, as a moral relativist (sorta), would support. For the record, I do not Americans using military force to "solve" problems in other countries. I also do not support Americans to trying to stamp out cultural practices, anywhere. If Africans/Muslims want to consider practicing FGM (female genital mutilation), I don't have any problems with it (that's not to say I agree with the practice: I find it repugnant, and would never consider it myself. But I understand that not everyone shares my views).

    You are the worst hypocrites ever to walk the earth

    Again, I'd prefer you not put words in my mouth.

    The fact that people disagree on a matter does not mean there is no correct viewpoint.

    Who defines "correct"? The fact is, it's almost always the rich, industrialized, democratic nations (US, Western Europe, Australia, etc). In a given country, you essentially sign a 'contract', giving up some of your rights in exchange for certain securities (see Rousseau). This gives your government the right to punish you when you break laws. But you never give similar authority to the government of a foreign nation.

    The fact that a culture has traditionally done something which is hurtful to its members, or even to some of its members, or even one of its members, does not mean that it is entitled to continue doing so.

    So what about, say, abortion? Let's say I think abortion is wrong, and is harmful to the babies/fetuses killed by abortion every year. Does that mean that no one in the US is entitled to continue having abortions? Of course not. It's not up to me to decide (as a non-American). The same applies elsewhere: if you think FGM is wrong, fine. You should support it being outlawed in the US. If the Africans think it is wrong, they should make it outlawed in their country. But at what point do you have the right to force Africans to stop FGM, but they don't have the right to stop Americans having abortions? PS - I'm actually pro-choice - the abortion issue is used as an example.

    [ Parent ]

    Other material by Paul Treanor (4.04 / 23) (#45)
    by AEtherean on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 12:37:20 PM EST

    After reading the article that enterfornone referenced in his post, I started reading a few of the other articles written by Paul Treanor. Some of you might find them interesting.

    This one argues that democracy is wrong.

    This one argues that art should be destroyed.

    This one argues that, quote, "the Internet can and should be destroyed."


    -----

    "Criticism is prejudice made plausible."
    - Henry Louis Mencken


    Democracy IS wrong! (none / 0) (#163)
    by Abelian Grape on Wed Nov 29, 2000 at 07:21:06 AM EST

    See Arrow's Impossibility Theorem for details.

    (* Yes, I know it doesn't apply to all forms of democracy (for example, Rousseaunian democracies don't suffer from the same problems) but it's a nice result nonetheless *)

    [ Parent ]

    Confused definitions (3.63 / 11) (#50)
    by dennis on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:21:35 PM EST

    There seems to be considerable confusion, in that article and by various political figures, about what a "right" actually is. It's not an imposition, it's a lack of imposition. It makes sense to say "you have a right to say what you want without restriction." It does not make sense to say "You have a right to submit all your public statements to official censors." The author's example of a "right to clean water" strikes me as an example of the second sort--it's an imposition of an external condition (beneficial or not), rather than a removal of restrictions on individual action.

    The Bill of Rights consists entirely of a) removal of potential restrictions on individual freedom, b) safeguards against freedom being arbitrarily infringed by government, and c) further restrictions on government power (10th amendment). I would argue that the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights are rather fundamental, and support each other in providing the basis for a free society. If people aren't free to speak their minds, you don't have a free society. If you can be thrown in prison or lose your property at the government's whim, you are not free to speak without intimidation. Etc.

    The U.N.'s right to paid holidays (article 24), on the other hand, is exactly the sort of busybody interference the author is complaining about.

    Side note--don't forget, authors never did have an unlimited right to control distribution of their work, at least under the U.S. constitution. It was "limited time, in limited ways, not because it's a right but because it will promote the public good."

    Confused meanings (3.33 / 3) (#61)
    by jesterzog on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:27:38 PM EST

    I mostly agree with you but would appreaciate it if you can elaborate on this:

    It makes sense to say "you have a right to say what you want without restriction." It does not make sense to say "You have a right to submit all your public statements to official censors." The author's example of a "right to clean water" strikes me as an example of the second sort

    The way I read this is that "you have a right to clean water" is the same sort of thing as "you have a right to be able to drink clean water without anyone else preventing you from it". Assuming that's what it means, how is polluting someone else's water any different from censoring what they say?

    Perhaps there's a difference between actively polluting/censoring as opposed to simply letting things take their natural course, meaning that one person's right shouldn't be imposing undue responsibility onto someone else. (eg. cleaning someone else's water for them.) I might have just answered my own question with that remark, but I'd appreciate any insight.


    jesterzog Fight the light


    [ Parent ]
    Rights and rights (3.00 / 2) (#68)
    by Pac on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 03:32:06 PM EST

    I think that when the UN declares something a human right, they are appending to the text of the right something like this: "We, the nations of earth, will make all efforts in our capacity to garantee that every human being on the planet will" [for instance] "have access to clean water".

    Reading it this way make it easier to identify what the right means. It would be different from your interpretation, because in the case of clean water it would give UN a mandate to clean or help clean someone's water supplies, irregardless of who polluted it in the first place. And, of course, to stop someone from polluting someone's else water.

    On the other hand, it presents some problems, like in the case of the right of paid holidays, that can not be applied to "every human being on earth". Some brazillian natives live and have lived for thousands of years as hunter and gatherers in the middle of the rain forest. The very concept of holidays is foreign to them. What should we do, modernize them and then grant them the right for paid holidays? This would clearly violate some other, more fundamental rights.

    So, I believe there is a body of fundamental rights, clearly aimed to, in the words of the original poster, provide the basis for a free society. And then there are some rights introduced by one group or another that ended up being considered "human rights" by the UN but are in fact tools designed to solve particular problems (usually geographically or temporaly localized).

    Evolution doesn't take prisoners


    [ Parent ]
    Fundamental vs. negotiable rights (3.00 / 1) (#71)
    by dennis on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 03:46:22 PM EST

    I thought about elaborating a little more when I first posted....the article applied the "right to clean water" to mean that governments would be required to provide clean water. This is something like your "imposing undue responsibility." Which is not to say that I don't think governments should provide clean water, just that it's not essential to a free society that they do.

    I'm sorta working this out as I go, but....it seems to me that there is a difference between fundamental rights and negotiable ones. Fundamental rights are those that keep everything else open for negotiation. It is perfectly all right for us as a society to agree that we all want to drink clean water, and that anybody who pollutes our water is going to get in trouble. It's also all right for us to agree that we don't care about clean water, and everybody is responsible for filtering their own. But it's not all right for us to say that we don't care about free speech, because once we lose free speech we can't negotiate any more.

    The Bill of Rights is exclusively concerned with fundamental rights as I've just defined them. It does a genius job of keeping the negotiations open--with the inevitable result that people who prefer to halt negotiations and impose their own ideas perpetually try to weaken those ten amendments. They've had a fair amount of success of late, hopefully we'll be smart enough to turn things around.

    [ Parent ]

    Human Rights (2.77 / 9) (#56)
    by DJBongHit on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 01:55:39 PM EST

    My viewpoint on human and civil rights is that each and every person has the right to do whatever they want, as long as this doesn't interfere with other people's rights to do whatever they want. Since I read a lot about the War on Drugs, I'll use this as an example (although this example can be extended to religious practices, sexual rites, etc...)

    I believe that people should be able to smoke crack, shoot heroin, or smoke PCP. This should not be illegal. However, if they steal money or goods to pay for their addiction, they should be punished for that. The actual drug use is a victimless crime, and therefore does not infringe on the rights of others. It should not be illegal. But making drug use illegal because it may cause the user to commit a real crime is a violation of both the principals of human rights and the written word of our Constitution - specifically the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

    Neither the Government nor other people should push their morals or values on anyone. Everybody should be free to live their lives the way they want, provided that this doesn't affect other people wanting to live their lives the way they want to.

    ~DJBongHit

    --
    GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

    What are you smoking? (2.66 / 6) (#66)
    by GreenCrackBaby on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:54:38 PM EST

    "The actual drug use is a victimless crime, and therefore does not infringe on the rights of others.

    I hate to flame anyone, but how can you seriously say something like this? That is like saying suicide is a victimless act. Assuming of course you don't consider the dead person a victim. What a naive statement!

    And drug use is NOT a victimless crime!

    Is the baby born addicted to crack (yes, I'm aware of my alias) not a victim? How about the children that grow up homeless because mommy is a crack addict. I could go on and on about the children, but then I'd sound like Flander's wife "Won't somebody thing about the children!"

    Though you seem to think that people addicted to crack somehow have a choice about breaking the law ("Oh look, I'm out of money. No crack for me."), the simple fact is that an awfull lot of crime is a direct result of drug use. This creates thousands of victims (including anyone who pays taxes to support a police force).

    How about the people living in the countries that produce drugs. Can you honestly think Columbia would be so bad off if all they made was coffee?

    I really could go on and on, but I just realized I'm directing this to someone named "DJBongHit", so I'll just stop now.

    Still can't believe you said that though...

    [ Parent ]

    technically... (2.50 / 2) (#70)
    by speek on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 03:43:58 PM EST

    Drug use is victimless. The subsequent actions of the individual on drugs might constitute victim(ful?) crimes, but the drug use itself was harmless.

    So, arrest the drunk driver who runs over a person and charge him with murder. Drinking itself isn't the crime.

    Often, our laws are practical attempts to solve a problem that appears down the road, and then we forget that the law was practical in nature and not moral. This is the source of endless confusion, particularly for weak-minded human beings who prefer their logic shrink-wrapped and pre-certified for them.

    So now, we are convinced drug-taking is a moral issue, when really, it is a practical one.

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Missing the point. (4.00 / 3) (#78)
    by Aleatoric on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:21:15 PM EST

    Part of the issue stems from the use of the term 'Victimless' which is a malapropism. The correct term would be 'Consensual'.

    The argument in question is that certain behaviours directly affect no one other than the individual who is engaging in said behaviour.

    To argue that because some drug users, et.al. steal, or abuse their children, or some other crime, is missing the point. We already have laws against such behaviour, and it isn't necessary to compound these laws with further laws that also affect those who do not cause harm to others.

    If a crack user, for example, resorts to theft to support his/her habit, the act of theft, being already illegal, can be dealt with. Same argument for all the other 'harms'.

    To argue that a crack addict, for example, has no choice but to break the law (disregarding for the moment the illegality of crack itself), is disingenous. Contrary to public opinion, being under the influence of a drug (or alchohol etc.) does not cause other illegal behaviour. The user ALWAYS has a choice in his/her actions regardless of the substance abuse. And as a result, such users should ALWAYS be held responsible for any act they commit while under the influence, in exactly the same manner as if they commited the act when they weren't under the influence.

    Actually, the context of human rights is quite valid here. In the case of the 'War on Drugs' we do greater harm to the rights of all members of our society in our ineffectual attempts to control the behaviour of a few. In other words, the current state of the laws against drugs do more harm to human rights (and society) than the drugs themselves do.

    [ Parent ]
    "Victims" (2.75 / 4) (#80)
    by bjrubble on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:25:48 PM EST

    Is the baby born addicted to crack (yes, I'm aware of my alias) not a victim?

    Probably. But so is the baby born with mental defects because the mother smoked too many cigarettes, or drank too much booze, or got in a car crash.

    the simple fact is that an awfull lot of crime is a direct result of drug use

    The people who committed the same sorts of crimes in the 1930's can now (usually) procure their alcohol cheaply and without resorting to theft. Seems to me the crime is a result of prohibition.

    How about the people living in the countries that produce drugs. Can you honestly think Columbia would be so bad off if all they made was coffee?

    If coke were grown and exported like wool, would Columbia still have the same problem? Indeed, if the vast income from drug exports could be legitimately collected by the government, rather than being touchable only by FARC, wouldn't the country be much better off?

    [ Parent ]
    The problem with drugs... (2.50 / 2) (#98)
    by DJBongHit on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 07:02:24 PM EST

    ... isn't the drugs themselves, but the Government's fight against them. Because the drugs are illegal, people get tainted and overly expensive drugs from shady street dealers rather than clean, reasonably priced drugs from Government-licensed dealers.

    Though you seem to think that people addicted to crack somehow have a choice about breaking the law ("Oh look, I'm out of money. No crack for me."), the simple fact is that an awfull lot of crime is a direct result of drug use. This creates thousands of victims (including anyone who pays taxes to support a police force).

    Far (far, far, FAR) more crime is committed as a direct result of alcohol rather than all illegal drugs combined. There are 100,000 alcohol-related deaths each year in this country, while there are only 3,000 deaths that are in any way related to illegal drugs (source: The Media Awareness Project) The discrepancy between the number of people who use alcohol and the number of people who use illegal drugs is not nearly this large, either. What does this tell you about the safety of alcohol (a perfectly legal and socially acceptable drug) compared to the safety of other drugs? This ratio would be even bigger if drugs were legalized and were more pure and people knew exactly what dosage they were taking.

    How about the people living in the countries that produce drugs. Can you honestly think Columbia would be so bad off if all they made was coffee?

    You mean an addictive drug which can cause heart problems and can even cause death in the event of an overdose? The only reason Colombia would be better off making coffee is that the US Government won't interfere and fuck with them if they make coffee

    Almost all the problems relating to drugs are caused by the black market involvement.

    ~DJBongHit

    --
    GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

    [ Parent ]
    I was once like you... (3.50 / 2) (#106)
    by erotus on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:19:02 PM EST

    ...and I believed the lies and the charade that the war on drugs was for the greater good of the country. The government was right to throw these people in jail for dealing drugs to innocent children. However, I really could not morally justify throwing an adult in jail for smoking pot in his own house. Smoking kills more people year after year than pot. Yet, the government bans sacharin because a rat in some labratory dies. I was becoming disillusioned with the whole thing when I finally studied history, studied economics, and realized that the war on drugs was a farce from the very beginning.

    You see, I would like to see a world with no drugs, cigarettes or alcohol but that is just plain unrealistic. Has the war on drugs worked? NO. Are people using less drugs? NO. Do tougher penalties stop people from doing drugs? NO. So what is going on? I'll tell you. From the beginning of time, man has searched for and used mind-altering substances. Drugs have been in the culture of many societies. Tobacco was used by native americans. Alcohol was consumed in Europe, Hashish in Morocco, Opium in Turkey and Iran, Peyote by various tribes in North America. It is a cultural choice. We have a very eurocentric view of what acceptable drugs are.

    Do you really think by throwing a pot smoker in prison for five years will reform him. He will probably become somebody's bitch and will come out more resentful than before. You stated "Is the baby born addicted to crack (yes, I'm aware of my alias) not a victim?" Well, how about fetal alcohol syndrome? Alcohol is legal and I don't like the fact that these babies are born with this disorder.

    The biggest reason to oppose the drug war is the loss of our rights. Civil forfeiture has resulted in the erosion of the 4th ammendment and 5th ammendments. The right to free speech has been challenged by the "methamphetamine proliferation act" where revealing how to make methamphetamines is a crime. Our war on drugs is an extreme waste of money and money is the only reason pot was criminalized. Dupont and Hearst back in the 1930's feared the use of industrial hemp as it would have crippled their industries so they fought tooth and nail to criminalize it. They played on peoples fears that marijuana caused insanity and violence to get legislation passed so they would not lose their revenue stream to a cheaper fabric and a cheaper paper source.

    Back to civil forfeiture. Civil forfeiture laws permit the government to take the property of citizens who have not been proven guilty of violating the law. The government sometimes keeps the property despite the fact that the person is never given a guilty verdict. Example: A motel owner had his property seized because drug deals and prostitution occurred on his property. How was this guy to know what people do when they go to their rooms? Yet the property was seized and not returned for a considerable amount of time. Many believe that taking one's property and convicting them of a crime is a constitutional violation of the protection against double jeopardy. Guess Again! In an 8 to 1 ruling the Courts decided that civil forfeiture does not violate the constitutional protection against double jeopardy. Government can use the criminal law to prosecute someone and the law of civil forfeiture to seize a defendant's property. In another civil forfeiture case, a court ruled 5 to 4 that there was no constitutional barrier against the Government seizing property that was used to commit a crime, even the property of an 'innocent owner' who had no connection with the criminal activity.

    Conclusion: While I do believe that drug use is not healthy, it is, in the end, the individuals choice to make. Nobody tells you to smoke or not to smoke cigars but the government seems to feel that way about drugs. The erosion of our rights is enough of a reason to oppose the war on drugs. I for one, do not like the possible potential abuses and corruption that civil forfeiture laws bring. Look at the bigger picture. Crack babies are only one part of the puzzle.

    [ Parent ]
    Columbia (none / 0) (#123)
    by dennis on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 05:55:00 PM EST

    Actually I've read quite a few articles by writers who went to Columbia, and found that coca is a pretty important cash crop to the local peasantry. In the short term, at least, they really don't have any other good options.

    Saying something is a "victimless crime" doesn't mean the participants aren't harming themselves or their families. It means that no one is calling the cops afterwards to complain. Which means about the only way to enforce the law effectively is through violating civil rights of people who may or may not be criminals. Hence Carnivore, swat teams shooting people who turn out not to have any drugs, etc.

    I've never used illegal drugs myself, and I think they're bad for society, but I think it's worth considering which is worse.

    [ Parent ]

    the biggest fallacy concerning "drug abuse&qu (none / 0) (#137)
    by anonymous cowerd on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 12:16:34 PM EST

    You would seem, then, to be advocating the continuation of all the current draconian U.S. "drug" laws. I find it interesting that when you reply to a reference to "drug use" you immediately start raving about the perils of "crack." (It is probably cranky on my part to be so picky, but "crack" is trashy street slang, and we're discussing serious matters of public policy. Can we please drop the slang and use standard dictionary words instead?) Why not talk about the effects of marijuana? or heroin? or alcohol? or caffeine? or Prozac? or penicillin? By the dictionary definition of "drug" all of the above are "drugs."

    The commonest logical breakdown in discussions of "drug abuse" is to elide over precisely defining what you mean by the word "drug," and then to conflate all "drugs" - that ends up meaning, by default, all those things on the legally proscribed list - with freebase cocaine. Out of this probably deliberate omission grows the nonsensical circular argument that a.) this, that and the other (e.g. cocaine, heroin and marijuana, but not alcohol nor nicotine nor caffeine), being illegal, are "drugs," b.) "drugs," as exemplified by freebase cocaine, cause cerebral hemorrhages, induce deranged criminal behavior, lead, according to the popular myth, to the birth of brain-damaged "crack babies," etc., etc., and c.) therefore the entire catalog of proscribed drugs (arbitrarily excluding, of course, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine) should continue to be illegal into the future.

    Oh well, even though this "reasoning" is repulsive to anyone who respects logic, it ensures full employment and ever-expanding public funding for the senior personnel of police agencies, who are, curiously enough, the loudest and most aggressive proponents of this loony circular argument.

    Yours WDK - WKiernan@concentric.net

    "This calm way of flying will suit Japan well," said Zeppelin's granddaughter, Elisabeth Veil.
    [ Parent ]

    The right to choose one's own rights is based on.. (2.83 / 6) (#57)
    by marlowe on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:06:01 PM EST

    what?

    Oh, by the way, I've just decided that I have the right to punch anybody in the nose that I want to, for no reason at all.

    -- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
    Your rights... (3.00 / 1) (#63)
    by Forum on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:47:49 PM EST

    to do whatever you want END the moment they affect someone else. That is the basis for "Universal" human rights. "The right to swing your fist ends where the other persons nose begins." You are, or should be, free to do whatever you wish, so long as it does not affect any other people. As you can imagine, this lends itself to an enourmous amount of exceptions, due to the infinite number of ways your actions can affect other people. This, in my opinion, is what the founding fathers of the US had in mind when the bill of rights was written for the US. To achieve a moderation, whereby individual freedoms are still granted to the point that other people aren't hurt by them.

    -forum

    -- "When I walk down the street and only 3 or 4 shots are fired at me, I find it hard to stay awake." -HC
    [ Parent ]
    Paul Treanor seems confused. (3.85 / 7) (#64)
    by theR on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:51:37 PM EST

    He is presenting this as the reasons "Why human rights are wrong" when his arguments don't support it. Most of what he says implies that actions performed in the name of human rights are often wrong. There is an argument for that, but I don't see much evidence that human rights themselves are wrong.

    Increasingly, the doctrine of human rights is itself a cause of suffering, oppression and injustice. Increasingly, the argument that superpowers have a 'moral duty' to enforce human rights, is used in the same way as the doctrine of the 'civilising mission' once was used to justify colonialism.

    This does not support the claim that human rights are wrong. He states that the doctrine (I assume the Western doctrine) of human rights is wrong, not the actual rights. There is a difference.

    Intervention does not logically follow from human rights, although interventionists try to suggest that it does. If, for instance, children are being tortured to death in Eritrea, then this is wrong. It is not necessary to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to know it is wrong. But whatever grounds you have for finding it wrong, it does not follow that the US Marines can legitimately invade Eritrea.

    By this logic, it would be wrong to intervene in a country such as Germany during the Holocaust. (Just an example. I know the reason for countries fighting against Germany was not to end the persecution of the Jews.)

    These are the far-reaching claims made by all advocates of rights, and especially by the human rights lobby. It is obvious, even from this summary, that the logic of rights interferes with the principle of moral autonomy.

    No, it is not obvious. If I declare that all Muslim women have the right to be treated as equals to men, they do not have to exercise that right if it goes against their morals.

    The water supply issue was dealt with in a previous comment.

    To me, his arguments don't hold up well, and he seems unsure what he is really trying to say. He is also arguing semantics and the enforcement of rights. Maybe he believes the UN's or popular definition of human rights is wrong, but that does not mean that all human rights are wrong. Also, just because certain countries attempt to enforce these rights militarily does not mean the rights themselves are wrong.

    You can poke holes in any argument, including mine. The bottom line is, do the arguments, and does the work as a whole, make sense? I think his do not.



    you weaselly little... (1.33 / 6) (#87)
    by vsync on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:01:20 PM EST

    Just an example. I know the reason for countries fighting against Germany was not to end the persecution of the Jews.

    People like you disgust me. Of course it was to end the persecution of the Jews. They were being burned alive and turned into lampshades and gassed! Charles Lindbergh helped us realize the horror of what was happening, and thanks to him we finally recovered our moral outrage and attacked Germany.

    How dare you deny the Holocaust? If we pretend it didn't happen it could happen next year, or tomorrow, or even in the next 5 minutes! (Whoops, it just started. Gotta go...)

    --
    "The problem I had with the story, before I even finished reading, was the copious attribution of thoughts and ideas to vsync. What made it worse was the ones attributed to him were the only ones that made any sense whatsoever."
    [ Parent ]

    *sigh* (3.00 / 3) (#93)
    by Miniluv on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 06:07:43 PM EST

    Why is saying that the US didn't get involved in the European theater of world war two to end the Holocaust denying it happened?
    I know it happened, I've seen Nazi film footage of the gassings and cremations, and was sickened by them. I do recognize though that moral outrage over the Holocaust was NOT what prompted our involvement in the war. Had that been our primary motivation we would've fought a different war. Had human rights been our primary motivation we would've moved against Japan far earlier, for they committed atrocities easily on par with the Nazis. The Japanese killed more Chinese than the Germans executed Jews, yet we still don't make a big deal over that.

    "Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
    [ Parent ]
    . (3.00 / 3) (#115)
    by mattc on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 02:09:41 PM EST

    Exactly .. also the Communists killed millions upon millions of Russians, but we didn't do anything about that either... it seems to me most wars are for economic reasons.

    Ironically, the jews now have to deal with the very pandora's box they opened wrt Palestine. After all these years of telling us how horrible it is to kill someone because of religious beliefs and how awful it is to discriminate, they turn around and do just that in Israel! It will be interesting to see how this new war turns out.

    [ Parent ]

    Palestine (4.00 / 1) (#119)
    by Miniluv on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 04:18:15 PM EST

    I hestitate to classify it under the same heading as what the Nazi's did, or even the communists. The situation in the middle east is highly complicated, and rooted in more history than most parts of the world have recorded.
    While I don't condone the violence, I don't think it's the same thing as Hitler. The Israeli's are no more guilty of religious discrimination than their neighboring countries have been, and some still are, which is to say NO one in that region has been a shining example of tolerance and restraint.
    Bonus points should go to the Egyptians and the Saudi Arabians in that they've tried harder than many other nations, but they still have not achieved perfection. I also find it interesting that everyone is so quick to ignore the fact that the region IS doing better than it had been. The PLO achieved many of their goals, and I think that in time the remainder will be attained as well.

    "Its like someone opened my mouth and stuck a fistful of herbs in it." - Tamio Kageyama, Iron Chef 'Battle Eggplant'
    [ Parent ]
    ? (3.50 / 2) (#109)
    by theR on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 12:37:18 AM EST

    Oh no, it looks like a troll has wandered over from /.! What are we going to do?

    ...but if you are serious. I did not deny the holocaust. I said that the persecution of the Jews was not the reason for countries entering the war. The US knew about it for years before they entered the war. For the European countries that were not allied with Germany, it was basically fight or be trampled. Among the many reasons that contributed to countries aligning against Germany, I think protecting the Jews ranked pretty low on the list. Maybe not what we want to hear, but that doesn't make it untrue.



    [ Parent ]
    Certainly, the Holocaust was moreally incorrect. (none / 0) (#162)
    by Pakaran on Sun Nov 26, 2000 at 08:22:21 PM EST

    However,

    IIRC, the reason WWII was fought was to stop the expansionist behavior of Germany and Japan; the British and Americans didn't really discover the human rights violations that were going on until they began to push into German territory.

    IIRC, also, Hitler went out of his way to conceal such things from foreigners at the Berlin Olympics.

    [ Parent ]
    Yet Another Excellent Point! (3.00 / 2) (#89)
    by Matrix on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:13:20 PM EST

    Just because you have a right doesn't mean you have to exercise it. How many Americans exercise their (rapidly diminishing) rights to free expression in any major way? How many exercise their right to liberty (as opposed to staying in one city/county their entire lives)? How many exercise their right to vote? (Although this number may be increasing again, I'm being pessimistic. So sue me. :-P ) All rights (except for a few, like the right not to be murdered) are optional to some degree or another.


    Matrix
    "...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
    - Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
    [ Parent ]

    A different philosophy (2.50 / 6) (#65)
    by dzimmerm on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 02:52:58 PM EST

    A certain author who I enjoy reading said that the universe is a grand illusion that we partake of in order to do two things,have fun, and learn. He said the basic rule is that you can do anything you want to. This also means that anyone else can do anything they want to. The one caveat he pointed out was whatever you do there will be consequences.

    With the fact of consequences in mind when an act is contemplated you have a philosophy that will get you through your world of illusion with the greatest chance of having fun and learning.

    Human rights are a meaningless concept as the author believed we are all immortal indestructable beings who of their own free will don flesh in order to experience this illusion. Because we can not hurt or even change one another we get the most bang for our buck by living an illusionary life the way we want to. Some of us choose to be victims, some choose to be the bully.

    We create the role we want and experience it here because it is something we want to do. That is why anyone can change themselves in an instant of decision because that is the nature of this world. It is also why some of us can go through life with no threat except that of old age. We have all chosen. This also means there are no chattles, a person is a person no matter what age or gender. Raising a baby is the wish of the parent, not the right of the baby.

    With this philosophy we have no rights whatsoever and all rights that ever existed both at the same time. The author was also quite clear on one point. He said, Everything I have said in this book could be wrong.

    Don't you just love it.

    dzimmerm

    A certain auther... (1.00 / 4) (#69)
    by speek on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 03:34:45 PM EST

    Yeah, but Richard Bach is too big a loser to be taken seriously.

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    Hmm (none / 0) (#116)
    by mattc on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 02:33:44 PM EST

    Does this author have a name, or does the book have a name? Some important information you forgot to give us. :-)

    [ Parent ]
    Kilgore Trout? (1.00 / 1) (#121)
    by plastik55 on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 05:34:45 PM EST

    In the absence of further information I'm guessing the this was a book that Kurt Vonnegut described his character Kilgore Trout as having written. It sounds like something he could have come up with. I have a vague memory of such a description in one of Vonegut's books.

    My guess could be entirely wrong.
    w00t!
    [ Parent ]

    Author (none / 0) (#142)
    by dzimmerm on Mon Nov 20, 2000 at 10:05:17 AM EST

    The author is Richard Bach and the book is "Running From Safety" . His ideas are interspersed through a number of his books including "Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions, One, Stranger to the Ground, Bridge Across Forever", and others I may have forgotten.

    "Running from Safety" offers his version of quantum mechanics in 100 words. It is an interesting read if you like to explore philosophies that have some basis in the Christian Science belief. Bach does not adhire to Christian Science strictly but I am told his philosophy has many shared structures with that system.

    I was avoiding mentioning the author directly as I did not want to have to go about putting quotes around all his book titles. I have enjoyed reading his books and find his views closest to my own beliefs.

    Later,

    dzimmerm

    [ Parent ]

    a brief lesson on rights (3.25 / 8) (#75)
    by jreilly on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:12:23 PM EST

    each of us should be free to chose our own set of rights without being forced to agree with the rights of anyone else.
    Is it just me, or this this not make any sense? Rights are chosen by a society. I can "decide" that I have the right to kill people who look at me funny, but that doesn't give me the right to do so. Why? because no one recognizes my right. Rights are given, not taken. Human rights are the rights that people universally agree everyone should have. That's basically the function protoype of them. People seem to have different ideas of how to implement this "function," but that doesn't mean the function cannot be implemented. And there are basic rights that most of humanity agrees upon.

    Oooh, shiny...
    Universal Agreement (none / 0) (#124)
    by AEtherean on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 06:03:37 PM EST

    While I agree with you in spirit, I have to point out that your statement, "Human rights are the rights that people universally agree everyone should have" supports Treanor's argument against human rights.

    Humans beings do not universally agree, period. I believe there are no exceptions. And certainly there cannot be universal agreement on something as charged as a fundemental human right. To require universal agreement for any right allows for no rights at all.


    -----

    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others."
    -- Thomas Jefferson


    [ Parent ]
    Bill of No Rights.. (3.75 / 8) (#77)
    by scottli on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:19:22 PM EST

    Yes, this is America-centric, but I think it works if you insert the country of your choosing. People seem to think they have 'Rights' that aren't. Ymmv.

    We, the sensible of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid any more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior and secure the blessings of debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt-ridden delusional, and other liberal, commie, pinko bedwetters.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that a whole lot of people were confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No Rights.

    You do not have the right to a new car, big-screen color TV or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

    You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc., but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

    You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all of your relatives independently wealthy.

    You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes.

    You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

    You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and kill you.

    You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the right to a big-screen color TV or a life of leisure.

    You do not have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like. However, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world and do not want to spend so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military uniform and a funny hat.

    You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have one, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities in education and vocational training laid before you to make yourself useful.

    You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to pursue happiness -- which, by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an overabundance of idiotic laws created by those around you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.



    Excellent! (2.00 / 3) (#85)
    by Matrix on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:54:51 PM EST

    Love it. Can we please get this turned into actual legislation? It seems to clear up a lot of issues people have with various things, and expresses the Bill of Rights in terms that anyone should be able to understand. It basically garuntees that people have the right to do what they like. Or in theory it does, if the government would bother to follow it... Or even read it before passing laws.


    Matrix
    "...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
    - Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
    [ Parent ]

    I love it (2.50 / 2) (#105)
    by jreilly on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:07:54 PM EST

    except for this one part

    You do not have the right to demand that our children risk their lives in foreign wars to soothe your aching conscience. We hate oppressive governments and won't lift a finger to stop you from going to fight if you'd like. However, we do not enjoy parenting the entire world and do not want to spend so much of our time battling each and every little tyrant with a military uniform and a funny hat.

    You do not have the right to moan and complain about someone asking you to actually BE a soldier, and not some guy getting paid to live on a military base.

    I mean really, if you don't want to go to war, don't join the army

    Oooh, shiny...
    [ Parent ]

    Re: I love it (3.00 / 2) (#132)
    by anholt on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 12:07:10 AM EST

    I mean really, if you don't want to go to war, don't join the army

    That's interesting, because right now I'm almost turning 18. I'm getting information at school and at home saying that if I don't register for the draft by the time I'm 18, I could be thrown in jail for the next five years of my life and fined up to $250,000. Even if they don't do that, I will be denied financial aid for college and denied the opportunity to have a government job.

    I don't want to go to war, or at least not against any enemies of the US. However, I still face the possibility of being required to go to war. Sure, it's very unlikely, and hasn't happened for decades, but it is still there.

    [ Parent ]

    Typical callous (2.66 / 3) (#110)
    by goonie on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 12:39:27 AM EST

    You do not have the right to free health care.

    Why do you morons assume that "the market" is automatically the solution to all problems, and that anything with the tag "socialist" - specifically "socialized medicine" - is the spawn of Satan?

    Aside from my radical bolshie view that you shouldn't let people die painfully in the street because they can't afford to pay for a doctor, a little bit of comparing the economist's "market" to the real situation when medical treatment is required suggests that it's very much *not* a market. The "consumer" is totally dependent on the "producer" to determine what product they should "buy" and who should "provide" that product. You are in no position to haggle over prices. In practice, without regulation this ends up with all-powerful doctors becoming incredibly rich at the expense of their patients. Don't believe me? Check and compare how much the US spends on health care compared to European countries, and look at indicators of health like average lifespan, and then tell me that lassiez-faire economics and health are a good mix.

    After actually having *tried* both private and socialised medicine, I can say that while I'd sure prefer a private hospital bed (privacy and better food) to public, I received equally good treatment in both, and the public system provides care at a *much* lower cost (in terms of real cost rather than what I personally pay) than the private one.

    [ Parent ]

    Bitter right wing gits (none / 0) (#138)
    by TheMgt on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 12:43:50 PM EST

    Why do right wing libertarians (don't all US libertarians seem to be right wing), despite all their professed loathing of authority and unnecessary laws, still cling to capitalism despite its need for the same unnecessary laws and authorities to prop the whole lousy system up.

    [ Parent ]
    Simplistic article that gets it wrong (3.57 / 7) (#86)
    by melancholyDane on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 04:57:30 PM EST

    These sorts of arguments fly about on a fairly regular basis in the dettatched academic circles. Typically they revolve either around the issue of involement in non-western cultures, and the nature of the value judgements we place on other cultures. The problem, usually is that these theories end up at naval-gazing critiques of human errors in judgement rather than errors in meaning or interpretation of said human rights without anyone realizing it.

    Paul Treanor falls into this same pit-fall. To begin with, he focuses and accepts the UN's role as final arbitrar of what human rights are. This is stupid. Regardless of what the UN claims the inalienable human rights to be, they are simply an expression of what the common viewpoint was in 1948, as best could be written by the people involved. Well, so that's charitable. It could be written to express the needs of Western religion or anything else. But it doesn't matter. I'll get to that in a minute.

    Treanor also has some bizarre notion of what standard claims of human rights are. This again, just isn't that great a notion. In goes to the first point really. In focusing on the regulation and prescription of rights he forgets that he was trying to speak of the notion of human rights as a whole. In anycase he doesn't cite any evidence very well, and the link's language doesn't support his point at all.

    He purports to be afraid of John Rawls which is good. But other than having picked up a name, Treanor hasn't read any of him, or he wouldn't be worried about the nature of these rights. (Rawls' idea was that the only unifying principle was justice, and the only way to build a set of common rights was to extend them from justice) (can you spot the assumption?) The holes in these theories are large and revolve around enforcement.

    Then there's the sloppy slippery slope argument about water purification that makes no sense, and has no citation for ever having occured. This hinges on a notion of moral logic (!?!?). Not exactly a mainstream idea, moral logic is kinda out of touch with the way that we respond to moral violations (i.e. i see joe smack his daughter, then i rightously beat him senseless in anger. it's left to caretakers to give the daughter therapy and reporatory care -- these caretakers' actions are based upon academic principles - which could get out of hand, but they aren't moral responses, and when they get out of hand it's typically gushing overenthusiasm for a new theory that causes it). In anycase slippery slope ideas are a tricky thing a best, particularly when the author isn't above trying to exploit your sentiments (what happened to the serbian child anyway, I'm not clear on why the child is in the essay).

    It's all well a good to have a set of written human rights, but in a flaky, voluntary organization like the UN it really doesn't matter. Because we don't now, and never will, act according to those expressed rights. We have to get angry, really angry, to expose ourselves to an international incident. (Do ya see people lining up to help the Mexican Zapatas or anything like that?) We let mass slaughters go on in Rowanda for months (years, not sure) before we freak out finally and try to make peace. The reasoning? "Who are we to judge." We do nothing if we're not inspired to. We repect other moral codes, if only out of apathy and confusion. Does anyone really think that women should be deprived of the right to read (really the right to record knowledge, yes?) in parts of the middle east, or the people should be put to death in america (okay so that one might be a bit controversial). But there aren't massive international incidents over these issues because we simply don't care enough, and don't understand enough that we aren't willing to just live and let live. And we respect their rights.

    And UN can't do anything about it.

    So why have I wasted so many electrons writing this out to be read. Quite simply, the notion of human rights stems from the idea that there are moral values that we know we all share. We may not know what they are, and that may be tricky to figure out, because the cultural values are strong enough to blind us, but they are there. Simply because part of being human is to believe in these values. To not acknowledge these rights existence is to start upon the notion that all our judgments are invalid because our own pre-conceptions cannot match the target of our judgement. The extensions to this inevitably point to the fact that we've lost the right to judge, and therefor everything that makes us human is lost do to suspicions to bias. This is something most of us, including the opinionated Mr. Treanor, know to be wrong.



    Not a slippery slope (3.66 / 3) (#97)
    by Spinoza on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 06:58:34 PM EST

    Treanor is pointing out that the logic used to support filtered drinking water could also be used to support additions to the water that may not be entirely justified. This is not a slippery slope argument. It would be a slippery slope if he had stated that "If filtered drinking water is allowed, then chlorine will be added, and if that happens, then flouride will be added..." This would certainly be a slippery slope, and a ridiculous one at that. This is not what he is doing.

    It does not require a "citation of ever having occured". It is a demonstration of faulty logic.

    [ Parent ]

    Why are we even discussing this sloppy rant? (4.16 / 18) (#92)
    by error 404 on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 05:39:34 PM EST

    It is a nearly random collection of straw men, misdirection, and errors of fact.

    First off, I live right in the middle of The Great Satan (as some describe the military ) and often converse with people who think imposing human rights on others is a good idea. I don't think I've ever heard any of them say that's because moral universalism is superior. A much more common reason cited is that it really, really sucks to be minding your own business and have some paramilitary knock down your door, shoot your grandfather, kidnap your dad, rape your sister, and burn down your house because you are the wrong shade of white.

    He goes on to specificaly NOT use sovereignty as an argument against civil rights. Frankly, that's the only reasonable counter-argument. Who else, besides sovereign govornments and groups of them, can grant or not grant rights? The affected individuals? I can just see some guy "Your Honor, I've granted myself the inalienable right to rob banks, so fk off." If neither human rights nor sovereignty matter, on what grounds was Milosovich whining about us bombing his cities?

    The idea, that any human rights violation automatically legitimises any western military action, obviously has no moral basis.
    Um, yeah. Western military action justified by minor human rights violations is so common. On what planet? It takes huge, ongoing, obscene violations to get the western countries to threaten to warn the violator's diplomats of possible stern warnings regarding the suggestion of potential statements of regret, much less any kinkd of action, military or otherwise.

    And then there is that list of characteristics of rights. It comes down to the idea that human rights are imposed on a country without that country's consent. But without sovereignty (remember, he rejected that argument) what difference does a country's consent make? I guess he's also going into the idea of the consent of the individual affected. But that individual's consent is pretty much irrelevant in the first place - if that individual were being respected to begin with, the whole question would be moot. There are some possible situations where the person affected might be in a position to object to certain rights - if, for example, the right to reasonable work hours were absolute, a worker might object to being restricted to 60 hours per week. But here on Earth, human rights rules restrict authority structures, not individuals. I guess somebody might object to being denied the right to be shot for voting for the losing candidate, but...

    Next section: yup, by substituting words, you can make a good thing bad. By his logic,

    I'd like a nice bowl of rice for dinner.
    is equivalent to
    I'd like a nice bowl of cyanide stuffed down my throat.
    
    In principle, yes, it is possible for bad things to be declared human rights, and thus imposed on people. In fact some of the things that have been proposed as human rights have been bad. That's why there is debate. But the author isn't objecting to any particular rights, but to the whole idea.

    Another thing about the example is that the water situation in Prizren is more a matter of administration than of human rights. What basis would be better for the UN administration to use? Aesthetic whimsey? Profit?

    The idea that human rights are exempt from moral judgement ignores the moral judgement that goes into deciding what those rights are. In fact, most of the rights mentioned in those documents are very hard to argue with. In most cases, those documents merely put on paper what most people believe, rather than innovate morality. The right to healthy drinking water, for example, addresses the practice of some authorities of punishing or eliminating populations by cutting off or poisoning the water supply. It doesn't invent a responsibility - those who administer a city have always, since the dawn of civilization, been responsible for water supply. That basic fact of running a city, not human rights, is the "excuse" for the UN filtering the water.

    Oh, to heck with it. The straw man crap in the table is ridiculous. I've wasted too much time here already.


    ..................................
    Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
    - Donovan

    I believe in all rights, no wrongs (1.60 / 5) (#100)
    by sl4ck0ff on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 08:28:24 PM EST

    I'll choose to make this short and sweet, unluck some other comments related to this message. First off; don't be confused be the subject of my comment! I just want to make it clear early on that I do not believe in the words "right" or "wrong". I feel that our problems and issues far too often get shoved into categories of "right" and "wrong". It isn't investigated why we feel the way we do, all we know are privledges and taboos. I don't. I believe that "rights" should be called "privledges" and unless someone or something physically denies them from us, they are of course ours.
    /me has returned to slacking
    not too difficult... (1.00 / 4) (#107)
    by goosedaemon on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:52:53 PM EST

    ...to prove it to be the bullshit that it is. if i give up my rights, i give up my right to give up my rights.

    but he did make some other good points, like how the government is too invasive for its or its citizens' own good or how westerners inflict themselves on easterners.

    hahaha... ha. i just divided the world into two sections. i hope you see the profundity of that.


    Society (4.00 / 5) (#108)
    by atom on Fri Nov 17, 2000 at 11:56:58 PM EST

    I've been thinking about this topic lately. I believe our society defines our rights and wrongs, our dos and don'ts, and our laws. We have such an elaborate set of rules for the most random rules, and we often let such ridiculous traditions overshadow our instinctive morals. The courts, in particular have lost sight of their purpose - so often people obviously guilty of horrendous crimes are acquitted for the stupidest of reasons - they had a $zillion lawyer, they were temporarily insane for the 30 seconds during which they shot a man 57 times, or they are particularly good looking and provoke sympathy from the jury. Give me a break - we're focusing on the wrong issues. Often we'll examine whether something that is obviously wrong to 99% of the population is "constitutional" or not. Let's see - should we obey our instincts or the 200 year old document, much of which is no longer adequate?

    In answer to your question, "And if not, why are we complaining when these rights are violated?" - it's because selectively support laws when it is convenient to do so. We want to be "free" so that we can do whatever the hell we want and not be bothered by the government, but we'll complain if the police don't intervene quickly enough to stop abuse. What about spam? Is that a form of free speech? But we want it outlawed, we're sick of the pain and suffering involved in clicking the "delete" a hundred times weekly.

    I often try to discover humans' natural instincts by contrasting them to nature. Granted, I'm not some tree hugger environmentalist who's studied nature in depth. But when we discuss "inborn universal rights," I think of the creatures who haven't had the advantages of technology or a brain as advanced as a human's. So, humans removed from the world, what's left is a glimmer of the "base rights" entitled to everyone. We are spoiled. Many animals risk their lives to find food to survive - we wouldn't think of such a thing. We want to sit on the couch watching the evening news, getting ourselves outraged because someone was reprimanded for expressing himself through graffiti. We seem to think we need a government, elders, or even technology to govern our rights and wrongs. But if we had none of that - no government, no superiors or inferiors, no religious leaders, no social hierarchy - then, only then, would we understand our true rights.

    It's this instinct that we grow up learning to forget. It is replaced by the values our society imposes on us. If we were a society of cannibals, killing other people would be the norm and nobody would give it a second thought - we'd be taught as children that killing is okay. That wouldn't be engraved in a prenatal fetus's brain - it would be taught to the child from the day it was born. In the same way, we have an elaborate and intricate set of obscure rules in which we strongly believe. No, we don't teach our children to eat others - but we do teach them that it's normal to eat other animals, or to start a verbal uprising. In other cultures, some of our beliefs would be considered ridiculous.

    So, in summary, we define our own morals, our own ideas of right and wrong. There are no universal rights, though there are many that we share in common with all the other human cultures in the world at this time in the history of the Earth. Fundamentally, you have the same rights as cow you ate for lunch today.

    dotcomma.org - Resource for programmers
    Why just humans? (2.66 / 3) (#112)
    by blupp on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 09:46:51 AM EST

    The most annoying thing about human rights is the "human" part. What use is a right to life for human specimen consisting of just a few cells? At the same time many other social animals (and aliens, and artificial brains, and...) would be much better off with such a right. (but there probably is something even better) And everyone and everything should definitely have freedom from torture, not just this or that little group of apes. The whole thing smells badly of racism.

    Is right wrong? Is good bad? Is true false? (3.66 / 3) (#122)
    by mdavids on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 05:52:03 PM EST

    There's too much to criticise in this bowl of tripe to be thorough about it, but the major flaw in this fellow's reasoning is of the form:

    If a bridge collapses, it doesn't mean there was something wrong with the bridge, it means there's something wrong with engineering.

    Any objection, from any quarter, to any particular declaration of human rights, can only mean that the entire concept of human rights is fatally flawed, and we must therefore throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    Even if we can satisfy ourselves that this is a sensible way to proceed, how do we determine whether the concept of human rights is a success or failure? To do this we must measure the suitability of the concept of human rights against some idea of what is good for people, what their obligations are, and what they should expect from society in return; that is, a concept of human rights.

    To argue against a particular definition of what human right are, is perfectly rational. In fact it's essential, and should be going on all the time. To argue that the very idea of human rights is somehow "wrong", and we shouldn't even be having such a discussion is just absurd. Most often this is done in the defense of some fairly clear violations of (widely accepted) human rights under the rubric of "Asian values," or some such twaddle, as though (for instance) working in sweatshop conditions on starvation wages for foreign-owned multinationals is a deeply revered cultural practice stretching back millenia, and the people involved wouldn't have it any other way.

    A look through some of the other articles this man has written suggests he has a bright future somewhere like the Cato Institute or the Heritage Foundation, where arguments don't have to be coherent or rational, merely ideologically servicable.

    Matthew.

    I disagree (2.00 / 1) (#125)
    by dylansnow on Sat Nov 18, 2000 at 07:33:52 PM EST

    I think the main point that was made in the article is that people's perceptions of what is right and wrong are different.

    To use your example to show what I mean: An engineer designs a bridge, the engineer then declares that all bridges hence forth must contain most of the basic design as the bridge that the engineer designed. If someone decides to try a new design the engineer then "intervenes" in the process in the the interest in "safety." I think is this is a better example of the what his argument was about.

    I think the article was arguing more against universal human rights rather than individual human rights. For example if I think that listening to a certain kind hurts human rights, what "right" do you have to prevent others from listening to that music. I think that you would probably agree that you have no right to intervene in other people's listening habit. Now take it to the next level... In some culture, robbers are considered to be evil. If caught they are killed. What right to you have to protect the "human rights" of the robbers?

    Now say you intervene and prevent robbers from being executed by the state. What happens to the robber? Yes they live, but what quality of life do they live. If the culture believes that robbers must die, the robber will still be ostercized from the community.

    Sorry for the ramble. I hope that I made some sense. I guess that it seems foriegn to me that for some reason, we have the only right idea about how humans should be treated and that we have the right to force that on others who may not want it.

    Books that may explain what I mean better:

    Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (Actually pretty much anything by him)

    The Lucifer Priciple by Howard Bloom

    [ Parent ]
    ...And foul-smelling tripe at that (none / 0) (#156)
    by czolgosz on Wed Nov 22, 2000 at 12:29:57 PM EST

    I think that this this guy is reacting to the extension of preferences to rights, and of the continuing assertion of group political aspirations as rights.

    All well and good, but he is discredited by his apparent sympathy to the arguments of Asian authoritarians that it's not in their culture to respect individual rights, and by his apparent belief that even a minimal set of fundamental rights oppresses someone.

    Both these views play into the hands of oppressors. His objections could only come from someone who has led a soft life in the West where, for the most part, we're left alone. I have lived for extended periods in the third world, and it's not like that there. Those nice academic distinctions just don't matter when people can drag you out of your home at any time and kill you.

    As for the argument that there is no historic precedent for respect for human rights in Asia or Africa: well, there was no respect for human rights in any European country in the 16th century either. The common history of mankind is ignorance, brutality and repression. "History is a nightmare from which I'm trying to awaken." Cultural norms come and go. That in no way lessens our obligation to clean up the mess left us by our ancestors.
    Why should I let the toad work squat on my life? --Larkin
    [ Parent ]
    Non-sequitur... (3.50 / 2) (#133)
    by Estanislao Martínez on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 12:27:06 AM EST

    The article, IMHO, is just a sophisticated write up of irrelevant details that totally miss the point.

    I dare anybody to find me a culture whose individual members want to be killed, enslaved, tortured, denied equal protection, denied a competent and just trial in which they are presumed to be innocent by default, held arbitrarily, have their privacy invaded arbitrarily, their name libeled, their movements restricted arbitrarily, etc.

    His arguments are just talking past the actual content of the relevant documents. He points out himself that military intervention does not follow from human rights, yet blasts human rights for that reason. However, if countries are using human rights as an excuse for military intervention, it does not follow that human rights are wrong, but rather that the military intervention is promoted on wrong reasons. It has nothing to do with the legitimacy of human rights, thus it can't be an argument against any form of them.

    From the article:

    Some people in history have indeed claimed the rights that were conceded to them - but most have had their rights declared for them by others. They are not allowed to renounce these 'declared rights'. The idea that a person must accept all rights declared for them (by others), clearly contradicts the idea of political freedom. The human-rights tradition includes no element of consent. 'Declared rights' are by definition authoritarian. It is these aspects, which make the doctrine of human rights a license for oppression.

    Absolute bullshit. Without the rights enumerated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you simply can't be meaningfully free. This denouncing of "authoritarian imposure of rights" is a meaningless exercise. How can you not consent to your having a right to freedom of speech yet remain meaningfully free? This is the question. Unless you have a very warped sense of what is freedom, it makes no sense.

    I thus don't think it is consistent to speak of people having to "consent" to such basic rights as enumerated by the declaration, and at the same time use "freedom" as a concept. How can you meaningfully consent to those rights if you don't have them already?

    The argument from the "The Prizren water supply" is equally flawed. First, as I pointed out, the author himself undermines the whole argument by pointing out that human rights do not give license to action in and of themselves. Regarding the other examples, well, the Declaration itself in Article 21 says: "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures." Unless the UN administration has been elected to office by those they govern, thus, they have no right to make those decisions by the people. Again, this may be damning for interventionism, but has no bearing on human rights themselves. Actually, it is an instance of those rights being violated; and by subjecting people to chemical substances without their consent, they further violate the rights to life and family!

    Note that the author does not significantly address the content of the rights. Note also that denying the universality of these rights would allow slavery to exist (I can renounce all of my rights and sell myself to somebody).

    --em

    There are rights that should require agreement. (4.00 / 1) (#155)
    by Peeteriz on Wed Nov 22, 2000 at 06:53:41 AM EST

    Article 26 - Elementary education shall be compulsory. What if the elementary education in a given country does not satisfy me, for example teaching cultural/religious values not acceptable for me?
    Article 29 - which declares the whole declaration as null and void, in my opinion -
    "2 - In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society. "
    The meaning is, that laws designed to protect 'morality' of a certain society may fully ignore any parts of this convention, even if the country has accepted it. For example a strict christian society may have a law to burn at stake anyone who has other beliefs, to protect 'the morality, public order and general welfare' of their state, the law may even be democratically accepted by 100% of the remaining population, and THIS WOULD BE IN AGREEMENT WITH THE BILL OF HUMAN RIGHTS !

    [ Parent ]
    Article Summary (3.33 / 3) (#134)
    by mrkoeller on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 05:45:25 AM EST

    Well, here's what I take away from Mr. Treanor's article:
    • There are no universal human rights.
    • Every human has the right to determine the rights their particular moral system affords them.
    Hmm. P and not-P. This should sufficiently refute his argument. :)

    p & ~p (none / 0) (#145)
    by piwowk on Mon Nov 20, 2000 at 02:01:23 PM EST

    of course, if you're Taoist then P & ~P is fine....

    [ Parent ]
    what's wrong with what we do now? (3.50 / 2) (#136)
    by Rainy on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 09:32:45 AM EST

    Ultimately, human rights can be summed up in 2 points: 1. not to be hurt and 2. to be free to go anywhere and do anything as long as rule #1 isn't broken. Anything else is a matter of convention, varies depending on place/situation and so on. For instance, I have the right to privacy but if amazon uses cookies to see that it's me and put new pink floyd cd in the front when I come by instead of n'synch, I don't mind and in fact welcome it - and I bet most people do. As for that article you link to, I don't understand the guy.. should all countries be by themselves, do whatever they want, kill all their citizens if they want to? Okay, fine, then he should have said 'internal affairs are each country's own business alone'. I mean, human rights is the only valid reason - what else is? Is he trying to say that it's fine to invade that country if you want to loot it, but invading because they're torturing children is immoral?! I think that guy's problem is that he has some agenda but he doesn't put it forward, instead he says vague things like 'human rights shouldn't be basis for invasion'. What should then? Does anyone understand what his position really is?
    --
    Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
    You misunderstand human rights (4.00 / 1) (#146)
    by klamath on Mon Nov 20, 2000 at 07:44:01 PM EST

    <blockquote type="cite>Ultimately, human rights can be summed up in 2 points: 1. not to be hurt and 2. to be free to go anywhere and do anything as long as rule #1 isn't broken. Anything else is a matter of convention, varies depending on place/situation and so on

    That's not exactly true. If you take a look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, you'll see everyone is garuantee the right to education (article 26), social security (article 25), unionized labor (article 23), and a democratic government (article 29) -- as well as many more 'universal' rights which have been declared in other treaties and agreements. IMHO, part of the problem with "human rights" is that they go too far: they're clearly the product of western, individualist governments. It is clear that if, say, the dominant superpower was communist (say Russia or China), these declarations would be of an entirely different nature. Therefore, they aren't universal, and thus shouldn't exist -- in their current form at least.

    [ Parent ]

    that's why I defined them as I did.. (4.00 / 1) (#150)
    by Rainy on Tue Nov 21, 2000 at 03:23:46 PM EST

    I said 'ultimately' and 'summed up'. Everything else emerges from that: if people are free, they'll have democracy, education, unions. I think anything outside of these 2 things shouldn't be explicitly defined cause that complicates matters, and diffuses attention from these 2 basic things. Those 2 things, however, should be enforced, absolutely, if we have any possibility to do so, foreign country or not.
    --
    Rainy "Collect all zero" Day
    [ Parent ]
    personal belief (none / 0) (#140)
    by naasking on Sun Nov 19, 2000 at 07:35:50 PM EST

    I haven't read the article or many of the comments that have been posted, but I've heard a lot of arguments and put years of thought into this subject myself. I've came to a tentative conclusion that the only right that any human being really has is this: I have the freedom to do as I please as long as it does not interfere with the freedom of another person.

    The "unless it interferes with another' freedom" comes from a "do unto others" kind of logic. Firstly, people will do whatever they feel like doing. This will inevitably lead to a conflict of interests between different people(ie. you may feel like hurting someone but they obviously don't want to be hurt). So if you can trample on someone else's freedoms, then they can trample on yours, ie. if you can injure anyone, then anyone can hurt you too. Therefore the desire NOT to be on the shit end of the stick(ie. not be injured or have your freedoms ignored) leads to a respect of another' freedom.

    Now when you think about this "right to do as you please granted your choices do not restrict another' freedom", then you start to realize that as simple as it sounds, it actually covers a lot that many believe to be their "rights". The right to life(don't kill me as that is the ultimate restriction on my freedom), the right to privacy(if you want it of course, because privacy does not trample anyone else' rights), right to free speech, the right to be treated equally, etc.

    The only things that I haven't resolved with this theory of mine is the relativity of what constitutes "restriction of freedom". Anyone can maintain that anything someone is doing/saying is restricting their freedom of choice, but does that make it true? There are some obvious situations like torture and execution, but then there are non-obvious cases like theft. Does someone stealing something from you restrict your freedom? I don't believe that possession of any material thing is a fundamental right, yet some cases of stealing are valid, like stealing my only food. Stealing money or gold is a stickier issue though.

    Money and gold don't have any inherent value(we place value on them), it's just metal and paper, but in our current society money is needed to live so in this sense it is wrong. By this logic, then one could argue that stealing from Bill Gates would be ok since he wouldn't flinch if you stole a million dollars from him. But I believe that fundamentally, this kind of relativity is flawed. I guess it'll just require more thought to work out.

    Anyway, that's what I've reasoned out and it's what I fundamentally believe in and live by. I hope it generates some interesting discussion. In this ideal case, maybe someone can think of a solution to my aforementioned predicament. That would be great! :-)


    there are still no easy answers (5.00 / 1) (#148)
    by msouth on Tue Nov 21, 2000 at 10:32:39 AM EST

    "I have the freedom to do as I please as long as it does not interfere with the freedom of another person."

    It's a good guiding principle, but in a lot of ways it doesn't say anything:

    "The right to life(don't kill me as that is the ultimate restriction on my freedom), the right to privacy(if you want it of course, because privacy does not trample anyone else' rights), right to free speech, the right to be treated equally, etc."

    Even "obvious" rights like these have conflict--consider privacy, for example. One person wants privacy to prevent others from knowing that he sexually molests his children. When he does this to his children, he is invading their privacy. You could argue that the children telling what the parent does to them violates that parent's privacy. But not allowing them to tell violates their right to express themselves.

    A nudist's right to live how they want conflicts with others' rights to live how they want (not see naked people in public places). Living in society involves compromise.

    I certainly don't think we have the right to dictate which chemicals a functional adult can take into its body. I think your basic position would help with this cause. But many issues, when you look at them more closely, are actually filled with all kinds of little hidden tradeoffs. On many, many hotly contested issues, there really are strong arguments on both sides.

    If everyone really believed this, it would work. But if everyone believed that the weak should be killed, that would probably work, too. We just have to decide which kind of society we want to live in and work to make it that way (thus depriving those who think the weak should all be killed of living in the society they want...).

    Still, I think we could work out a rubric of sorts for optimizing individual freedom. It certianly seems that we have a lot of issues that would immediately fall to the application of this rule (drug laws, anti-gay laws, anti-sex laws)...

    In the end, it gives you a view to argue from. Other people argue from different views (such as "we have a moral responsibility to protect people from themselves"), and hopefully we compromise before we kill each other.

    There you have it--democracy in a nutshell.

    --
    an error occurred while processing this directive
    [ Parent ]

    No easy answers, but always valid ones (5.00 / 1) (#161)
    by naasking on Thu Nov 23, 2000 at 04:52:00 PM EST

    One person wants privacy to prevent others from knowing that he sexually molests his children. When he does this to his children, he is invading their privacy. You could argue that the children telling what the parent does to them violates that parent's privacy. But not allowing them to tell violates their right to express themselves.

    The molestor violated the children's freedoms first, therefore he is in the wrong here and your apparent paradox falls apart. Telling is the only way to protect themselves from being hurt, and the right to hurt others(and hence stomp their freedoms) is expressly forbid by the rule. A molestor cannot honestly say that he is following the rule.

    A nudist's right to live how they want conflicts with others' rights to live how they want (not see naked people in public places).

    This is a more valid point. At the same time aversion to nudity is a reaction people have to feeling their own inadequacies or something they've been taught. I really don't share that feeling(though I once did). I'll have to think about this one, though as reasoning, intelligent adults, I'm sure the two could come to a compromise.

    But many issues, when you look at them more closely, are actually filled with all kinds of little hidden tradeoffs.

    I don't see any tradeoffs. It's a very simple rule but has many consequences because of its generality. My experience has been that if you think about it enough, a valid solution to any problem emerges.

    If everyone really believed this, it would work. But if everyone believed that the weak should be killed, that would probably work, too.We just have to decide which kind of society we want to live in and work to make it that way (thus depriving those who think the weak should all be killed of living in the society they want...).

    That's true, it probably would. However, I'm not arguing about a way for society to work. I'm not arguing about what's good for humanity at large because then individual rights are always trampled, and inevitably, yours would be too. And I don't think 'we' should decide anything because not only is it impossible for large numbers of people to agree on anything, but even if they do, they would never interpret it the same way. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing."

    That's why a society based on individuals and individual freedom is best. It allows everyone the freedom to do as they please on the understanding that they will not try and stop anyone else from doing what they want. It's simple, unambiguous(if reasoned logically) and covers almost everything I have come in contact with. The only outstanding issues are the theft and the one you proposed which I will give some thought to later on. I have a feeling it can be easily resolved though.

    In the end, it gives you a view to argue from. Other people argue from different views (such as "we have a moral responsibility to protect people from themselves"), and hopefully we compromise before we kill each other.

    I understand what you are trying to say, but it seems the rule I live by complies with whatever else anyone might believe simply because it allows them to believe whatever they want as long as they do not try and interfere with my decisions(which will always happen anyway). If they do try, I will not back down unless they can provide valid reasons. Even if they do, I will still make my own decision(taking their reasons into account of course).

    The moral responsibility people feel they have to others can be easily reasoned away with one question: how can you possibly think you know what's best for anyone? How can you know that becoming a drug addict for a year would not be good? Maybe you'll hit bottom and come to a realization about life and resolve to change. You might even help thousands of other drugs addicts out of the barrel and change countless lives. You CANNOT know. It is IMPOSSIBLE to know what's best for someone who can make intelligent decisions for themselves.

    Now I say intelligent decisions so that I avoid the issue of children who are ignorant of certain dangers. Once someone becomes informed enough to make their own decisions, then leave it up to them. Until then, protect them and help them learn and understand.


    [ Parent ]
    deconstruction (none / 0) (#141)
    by luethke on Mon Nov 20, 2000 at 02:23:18 AM EST

    this type of argument is called deconstruction. Basically you tear an idea down in to parts (deconstruct it) and then you put the parts back together in the way you want. Unfortunatly a person good at this can "prove" just about anything they want. I once read an article saying that the speed of light can not be constant because there are no moral absolutes. Showing an absolute in any field would show absolutes existed and therefore there could be moral absolutes, which we know there are none (thier idea, not mine). The article was fairly long, and using this techniqe souded reasonable, of course the speed of light is constant and has nothing to do with morals, but many of the acedemic people thrive on this kind of thing. This is one of the main tools many post-modern scholars use to "prove" many things. The problem is that the argument is to narrow. In many of the cases he stated I would hesantly agree, but lets look at the extremes that can (and do occur) with this though. If rights are only manifestations of society then anything society approves of is good (post-modern thought). If such a society deemed that the raping and beating was the right of every woman to endure would we say "oh, that's only thier culture". If the society said that you have a right to kill anyone you disagreed with would that be ok?. What if we respected everyones idea of "rights" and some one truly beleived the above rights, we would have to allow the above to take place. It's one of the great flaws with most of the post-modern thought - it assumes averyone will behave.

    The next question should be where do human rights come from and what are they. That is a much harder question to answer. The answer may still be society (at least on a larger scope than what he suggested) but that still seems unlikely to me. Rights in the sense of what you are allowed to do, yes - that comes purely from society. The rights every person has (just repressed in cases were you don't legally have them) have to come from a "higher place". It could just be a law of nature, act of "insert diety/religion here", or something my pathetic brain can not realize. Many animals seem to follow a type of moral code that we call instinct - don't eat own offspring - kill other males offspring - females protect children with lives - share food with social group - so on and so on (of course this changes from species to species). In cases we can deny these animals those "rights" by sectioning them off, killing them, basically just managing them.

    In the end I don't know what these natural rights are, I may have them all wrong. Where society comes in is trying to "guess" what they are. Each society does the best that it can (hopefully), If you look at what many countries beleive for rights they are rmarkably similar - focusing on the differances such as the cited article did skew the results the way the researcher intended and must be taken with a grain of salt (and so whould what I said - I am not the supreme being that knows everything :) )

    The Is - Ought Dilemma and Naturalistic Fallacy. (none / 0) (#154)
    by David Hume on Wed Nov 22, 2000 at 05:56:21 AM EST

    So with this in mind, is there a base level of human rights that do apply to all[?]
    From the viewpoint of pure deductive and inductive logic, the answer to the above question is, unfortunately, no. As (the real) David Hume explained:
    "In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or ought not." This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems to altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention wou'd subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction between vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relation of objects, nor is perceiv'd by reason."
    David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, (1888) Oxford University Press, Book III, Part I, Section I, pgs. 469-470.


    The is-ought problem.
    Are Human Rights Wrong? | 163 comments (155 topical, 8 editorial, 0 hidden)
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