Re:virus: \"Human Rights\" self-organizing network protocol

From: kharin (
Date: Mon Jun 17 2002 - 05:46:18 MDT

It is Blunderov's perhaps rather jaundiced view that there is actually
no such thing as a human (or any other) right that is not secured by
some form of force, or the implication of it.

Some background may not go amiss at this point. This was also the view of Hobbes who saw the only natural right as being that of self defence, i.e:

The right of nature, which writers commonly call ius naturale, is the liberty each man has to use his own power as he will himself, for the preservation of his own nature, that is to say, of his own life, and consequently of doing anything which, in his own judgment and reason, he shall conceive to be the aptest means thereunto. [Leviathan, Ch. 14]

Of course, while this observation has a certain pleasing simplicity and clarity to it, the problem tends to be that it's not very helpful; i.e. all it does is confirm the Hobbesian state of defence rather than serving to errect civilisation's defences against it. Locke moved the debate forward by suggesting that nature is not in a state of conflict until certain principles are violated (i.e. our rights to life, liberty and property). Property is especially important here since its existence depends upon the presence of a civilised body politic.

These two arguments remain the bedrock of the notions of rights, but have become more confused (since Jefferson replaced property with happiness. A wise change, perhaps, but the latter is rather more difficult to guarantee than the former). Since then, rights have been extended more and more from a notion of civil rights to a rather more diffuse (and broader) notion of human rights. Another factor is that the right speak of 'right to freedom from crime' and the left speak of the 'right to health care.' Neither 'right' is necessarily easy - or possible even - for any government to be able to grant. The term 'right' becomes identical to 'obligation' and both concepts are diluted thereby. Which brings us back to the original post...

Of course, the other problem with such discussions is that they are frequently characterised by more than a certain degree of libertarian fundamentalism, which sees government only as a threat to rights (which it certainly is - in part) and ignores the fact that government is necessary to guarantee those rights in the first place.

This message was posted by kharin to the Virus 2002 board on Church of Virus BBS.

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