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What, to you, are basic human rights?

This is quite a tough one to sum up in one discussion:

"...We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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..."

1- Which ones summarize the scope of liberties, as a whole?
(name the ones -or your own- that give the whole perspective of liberties)

2- Can you define the basic human rights in terms of material, dimensional, spiritual- or any combination thereof?

3- Could these change? What could make them change?

4- Are they sustainable?

5- Also: where do those rights come from?

PS- Please don't make Q5 such an issue here, this isn't the purpose.

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    Nov 4 2011: I do not believe in a higher power or any objective morality, and therefore believe in no 'basic' human rights.

    I do, however, believe in socially-constructed human rights.
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    Nov 3 2011: I agree with Raiford Gardiner who says "There is no “right” that you can’t lose by dint of circumstance, war, mischance, crime, mistakes, poverty, or any number of other reasons." There is no such thing as a 'Human Right". It's all made up - a utopian dream. Talk to the teenage mother giving birth in a mud hut in Africa. Does she have any rights? Talk to democracy dissidents in Syria - do they have any rights? Even our defining human quality, free will can easily be removed by a willful kleptocracy.
    As R.G. says, what we in 'free' societies see as rights are really only privileges. Whatever the UN declaration states, they can never be more than privileges.
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    Oct 24 2011: The two main rights that I find to be basic are Life and Liberty, what I love about the Declaration of Independence is that it does not guarantee happiness, it states that by having Life and Liberty we may pursue it in whatever way we conceive.

    They are sustainable insofar as they are upheld by just laws. Absoulte freedom is chaos and thus must have limits.

    Sadly these rights are ingrained in the human spirit, however they are often repressed by governments that crush those unfortunate to be born under their rule.
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    Nov 21 2011: For the past 2-3 hundred years people have had a great interest in rights, but very little interest in obligations or duties. It appears that the "take" side of the equation appeals more to us than the "give" side. Yet every take implies a give, and every claimed right implies that someone has the obligation of furnishing or guaranteeing that right. That "someone" is usually our society. The UN Declaration of Human Rights claims, for example, that among human rights are "food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control." (Article 25). This almost seems to suggest that people aren't responsible themselves for securing all these benefits. They are, after all, a "human right." At any rate, this implies a huge social program and great resources that are hardly available in any society.
    My bottom line is that for any claim of a "right" we must consider who has the obligation to ensure this right, and how they get the resources and motivation to ensure it. Try that exercise with the various rights claimed in this thread.
    One more thought: The lovely citation from Thomas Jefferson that opened this topic, about "all men are created equal," was of course no more true in TJ's time than it has been at any time before or after. TJ didn't believe it, he wrote it with the single purpose of impressing on the English king the colonies' right to rebel. He also knew that mankind aren't really "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..." Rather, the rights - all the rights - were endowed and attempted ensured by society. Without society no rights are left, no rights are meaningful, no rights are enforceable. We can still say meaningfully that basic rights are "inherent" in the human individual, as long as we recognize that it is so only because we define it to be so.
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    Nov 16 2011: A wise man once said` do unto others ,as you would have done to you `sounds to me like( human rights) all wrapped up in one neat little statement. Less is more.
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    Nov 9 2011: Thanks for your reply, Ethan.

    I am all for a tool that will encourage sustainability while at the same time promoting harmony, health, growth and prosperity for all.
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    Nov 7 2011: 1. life
    2. Education
    3. Health Care (psychological care as well)
    4. freedom (political, economic)
    5. Food
    6. Shelter
    7. Clothing
    8. The right to reproduce without having anyone arbitrary say that they cannot (For those who want to nitpick at this I am not justifying rape, molestation, etc). What I am referring to is how this is seen as affecting the environment because the more people that consume, the more resources are used. I think this is a matter of government, economics and politics and not because people need to have less sex. Also there are many areas in the world in which many individuals do not eat, so once again I do not think reproduction is the issue but power is.

    These are what I think are basic human rights and for the sake of avoiding a long response this is what I'll say: All of these are threaten or seen as impediments when political economies are created (such as a capitalistic democratic system)
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      Nov 7 2011: it is interesting that for reproduction, you've mentioned a sorta disclaimer that this right actually means a negative right, namely, nobody can stop you from doing so, not that anybody has to provide it for you.

      however, isn't it true for education and health care too? logically, it is the very same situation, health care and education won't just happen on its own, you need somebody else to do it. you need a doctor and a teacher. so i assume you want to extend that disclaimer to these areas too. we can not stop or prevent or scare people away from learning and getting health care. however, nobody is required to provide these services.

      if you want the government to maintain hospitals and schools, why don't you also want publicly financed mothers-for-rent kinda service? or sperm banks for women? as perverted as it sounds, isn't it logically equivalent to publicly financed schools?
      • Nov 7 2011: I would amend your first law to say you are the owner of your life and you should be able to live your life within the rules of your socieity.
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          Nov 7 2011: Thanks for the input but I disagree,

          I do not think that we have to live our lives in accordance to societal norms. I'm not saying that we should all be rebellious and go out and do whatever we want but not all societal norms are effective ways maximizing ones well-being or potential. some societies have better principles and norms than others. Also most societies demand that these norms be followed without exceptions and without question. I'm sure this is perhaps not what your referring to but I think there needs to be a little liberty/freedom from the individual. If one is to live their life in accordance to all the rules of society then one is not really the owner of their own lives.

          That reminds me, intellectually we can be critical of such a statement because we are privileged enough to have access to a forum like this and discuss these issues but lets be honest here: if our lives were in constant terror and threatened in just about every waking moment, then having a right to life would mean something, not only because of society but because we have been placed here in a situation at the expense of other, external influences. I'll say this: imagine your self in a homeless situation? Imagine yourself being desperate. Imagine yourself constantly being tortured? Imagine yourself constantly having to look over your shoulder? Imagine yourself with no food and water (which is vital to sustain your life) If you can imagine this or relate to this you will know that all these abstract principles, all these social norms that you cling to dearly, means nothing in the face of real danger. Real desperation. Real terror.The only thing that matters is your will to live and if this is at the expense of another individual you could not possible understand what gives them such authority. If this is at the expense of the government (some of what I said applies to governmental responsibility), you'd question its legitimacy.
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        Nov 7 2011: Nice to talk to you again Krisztain, I should have expected you to respond to this post so I'm not that surprised.

        I can only speak from personal experience so if you have anything to offer that is new to me please do so because I'm actually tired of talking about this. Being an individual who cares about the sustainability of the biotic communities on earth, I often hear many (namely biologist) who state that one of the main reasons why the environment is not being sustained properly is because there are 7 billion individuals on the planet and this means that more resources are going to be consumed. I do not think the blame can be put on reproduction being that most families really have lots of kids for economic reasons (there are other reasons as well). As an old physical science and biology teacher once told me: "There are enough resources for everyone on the Planet". Second it must be noted that we only run into this issue when governments and economic systems are established. Many societies have flourished without a centralized government but due to modernity things are really changing and a lot of resources are being taken away from many societal groups (once again I'm not advocating that we go back to being hunter gathers). I think environmental issues is really an issue of government, politics and economics (and this should not be the case). So in other words, I do not agree with the 1 child rule implemented in the government in China (although and I'll say this in capital letters I UNDERSTAND THE RATIONAL BEHIND IT).

        I'll be honest and my apologies but your second paragraph is odd. Really odd and a misconstrue of what I'm saying. I understand what your saying but I'm choosing to not comment on it as much being that it does not reflect what I'm really saying. And there not logically equivalent because becoming a teacher or a doctor or having kids is a matter of choice. Telling someone they cannot become a teacher or doctor or have children is arbitrary.
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    Nov 7 2011: "Right" implies something that has been "bestowed" on one, either by another or by an entity such as God or "nature."

    So, simply by using the word, we have delineated the scope of possible answers.

    Does the antelope have the right to be eaten by the lion?

    Do you have the right to breathe?

    Do we have the right to "own" the earth, or parts thereof?

    Do we have the right to kill?

    If we do have an absolute "right" to anything, by definition, it could not be removed from us, or withheld, by any means whatsoever.

    Is there anything that is "so yours" that no one could take it from you?

    If we can apply the word "right" to anything, it would be that thing (or those things, if there are many.)

    Beyond that, "right" is defined by means of mutual agreement. As such, it could be anything: right to vote; right to serve; right to __________ [fill in the blank.] Agreements can change.
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    Nov 6 2011: To me, Basic Human Rights are:

    1. The right to grow as a human being without being molested, physically abused and made to follow dictums that I cannot make a reasonable decision about until I am old enough and have enough information.

    2. The right to drink fresh water, and eat nutritious food. These are not options. I need these to grow up healthy and contribute to a healthy human community.

    3. The right to obtain healthcare that will keep me healthy so that I can continue being a part of a healthy human community.

    4. The right to be respected and to respect others regardless of age, gender, creed, or color.
    5. The right to learn.

    If the above is not reachable, please explain to me what exactly it means to be human? Is it to muddle through life in squalor and disease simply because my part of the world hasn't created the right committee to make it not so? If one of us is worthy of a good life, then we all are. If you disagree, who is worthy of judging?

    The barriers to my version of human rights:

    1. Well meaning but ill-equipped/prepared human constructs.
    2. Ignorance about the meaning behind our differences as humans and failing to realize that "there but, by the grace of 'luck' go I."
    3. We are animals with a conscience-tied to instinct and choice. Imagine looking down on a birds-eye view of earth and then imagine that red army ants had been given a conscience instead of humans. Wouldn't you hope that they would recognize that they BETTER be different than the other animals given their numbers and their ability to destroy so many habitats and species not to mention each other by damaging the ecosystem they live in?

    How do humans create a better world? Invest on the healthy, well-rounded, and kindness of its members and fix the ones who can't do this or... ??? I don't know how we are going to do it, only that we have to.
    • Nov 6 2011: The first anti-claim I think is most valid.

      The solution for this barrier is to make it so that humans are best aware of their possible mistakes, and if someone is ill intended, to make him only be able to do good.

      In other words- changing human incentives for the better good, in a way that does not coarse, and is arguably the best ever devised tool for sustainability and harmony, as well as growth and prosperity.


      I dare you to try and beat it.
      I'm still trying ;-)

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    Nov 6 2011: As all people are born equal on this earth no one should have the right to possess lands, not even a little patch. To use the land this right has to come from the consent of the community. For that right of usage of land one has to contribute to the community.

    Things have become a bit different for history shows that this right is systematically denied to people that couldn’t withstand the aggression of physical force. To enforce the will of those few that do have on those that lack any natural resource to sustain their lives is organized by law and executed by army and police.
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    Nov 5 2011: Mister Victor the "human rights concept is so new, and was created to cover the holes in the legal sistem. As a concept is a hoax. .....
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    Nov 5 2011: Hi Ethan. Difficult question indeed. Here I take a stab at it.

    Humans have walked the earth for hundreds of thousands of years. And before them, hominids walked the earth for millions of years. And so the chain goes.

    Under that framework, and starting at the individual level, I think that basic human right is an extension of the recursive basic right of any living being: life itself. But I must qualify it: i do not see this as unalienable. Along with this right each living thing should be allowed the freedom to decide whether to claim this right, or to give it up.

    In my own case, I have claimed it. I may not succeed, but it is my right to try to stay alive.

    But then we humans are gregarious animals. We like to live in bunches. So every time there is more than one member in a group, the individual right to try to stay alive might collide with the neighbor's individual right to try to stay alive. What to do? do we come up with collective rights in addition to the individual right to life? what if the tribe behind the river comes up with different collective rights? No, wait, these are supposed to be universal

    Well, the approach then could be to look at what it is similar between all these groups and individuals (and always considering other living things with whom we share the same space): All of them need water to survive. All of them need food. All of them need a shelter to protect themselves from the environment.

    I could consider these three to be good candidates to collective human rights, as they are based on characteristics shared by all.

    Groups tend to stay together, and populations tend to grow. At some point there is not enough water, food or space for shelter that will grant the collective human rights of all, so one more should be added:

    the right to change the list of human rights to adapt to future realities

    As stated here, these simple human rights derive from the fact that we are living animals with the individual right to try to stay alive
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    Nov 5 2011: Nick, I'm pretty sure that the universe has a great number of higher powers that hold us all and everything else in their sway, powers like gravity, electromagnetic radiation of various types or frequencies have enormous influence on our solar system and our planet, climate, geography and so much more. These powers and the way they behave are probably responsible for man's invention of anthropomorphised gods, the ignorance, lack of reason and fear of which then generated religions, at a guess.

    And curiously, according to one of the latest TED talks, morality may be caused by a molecule called oxytocin, in any case, both morality and privilege exist to the extent that we have words for them and a generally agreed definition for each, regardless of how or why each is abused.

    Rights, though having both a word and a definition, are hard to find. Without qualifying prefixes a right is an absolute. With prefixes they turn (from being greedy demands like the right to freedom or liberty, or subsidies, respect or the dole etc) into the privilege of relative freedom or liberty that living in a civilised society may bring.

    It is far better to use the word privilege simply because it is well established as a relative condition, and that is the condition of every aspect of our lives except conception and death. There is no perfection and extremely few absolutes to be found in the course of our lives. It is well to face up to it and as Laurens suggests:

    “It may be more interesting to focus on minimal conditions that have to be in place in order for "human rights" to arise.” I disagree with his use of “human rights”. Any qualified absolute is a nonsense but the word “right” is used without any regard for the responsibilities or earned respect that so generally accompanies privilege. The minimal conditions would need to include the development of far more respect for the responsibilities that come with the privilege of living in a civilised society.
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    Nov 3 2011: It may be difficult to give "substantialist" definitions (a list of rights). It may be more interesting to focus on minimal conditions that have to be in place in order for "human rights" to arise. Elements of such a definition might therefor be:

    -human rights are rights that arise from what a community thinks "human rights" are, and which were decided upon in a democratic and free way (so this entails a kind of relativism, even though the requirement for democratic decision making is an underlying universal)

    -the finality of this decision-making process should be to arrive at the values of equality (all human beings are equal), fraternity and liberty amongst humans

    -human rights should also strive towards supporting the minimal conditions that make the implementation of these human rights and their underlying democratic decision-making process possible (such as a viable environment, a liveable planet, a stable climate, educated citizens, etc... because without these, democracy is under threat).

    Maybe from these elements one can begin to draw up a substantialist list.
  • Nov 3 2011: Liberty is a basic human right. And so is respect.
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      Nov 3 2011: respect is how? if i don't show respect to someone, i'm violating a most basic right? do you consider not having respect to someone is serious crime?
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    Nov 3 2011: i think basic human rights are rights that nobody denies, or at least can deny consistently.

    1. you are the owner of your life. nobody should be able to take or rule your life.

    2. you can own things, and what you own, you can use in any way as long as it does not damage or destroy other people's life or property.

    3. you are free to give your property to other persons, conditionally or unconditionally. basically this is a detail of 2.

    4. you can protect your or other people's life or property if someone initiates aggression against it.

    i believe these rules are eternal. all other rules are local in geography, scope or time.
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      Nov 5 2011: Hi Krisztian, with all due respect, it seems to me like your definitions mix a human right with a legal right. The former is supposed to derive from the mere fact of being human (and as such precedes the declaration of independence and even precedes the first established religions), the later comes after a convoluted process of detailed laws and regulations that each society has crafted differently through hundreds of years

      The mixup arises when life and property are lumped together (as in 2, 3 and 4), regardless of the fact that private property is a fairly recent human construction (recent at least in the timescale of the apareance of humans on this planet.

      I don't see how something related to private property can be considered eternal given the fact that 1) humans have lived in this planet only for a very short fraction of time compared to other animals, and 2) private property has existed only for a short fraction of the time that humans have existed
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        Nov 5 2011: property rights follow from the ownership of one's own life. freedom can not be expressed but through material things. if i don't have the right to use material things, my rights to act freely is nonexistent. so we have to deal with the question, who can use a certain material object. my answer is what i wrote. the owner.
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          Nov 5 2011: I may still need some pointers to study this at a deeper level, as I still don't see how ownership of material things follow from the ownership of one's life and becomes a basic human right. The right to use material things does not require the right to own them. Many native american tribes lived for centuries using material resources around them without having to claim individual ownership to it, so it does not seem to me it follows naturally. You have the legal right to own material things but this right is born as early as you define the legal framework around it.

          I am not sure how do you define "act freely" , I think that by agreeing to live in a society of more than one individual you agree to act only as freely as it will not endanger this society. Even John Locke thought that one individual could not take over a society he is a part of.

          And I would disagree with your answer of who can use a certain material objects. The mere fact that you and I are here is proof that our ancestors were able to use material objects... many many years before the definition of private property was invented
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        Nov 5 2011: andres, i don't think that this logic is really valid. basically the idea is that since we didn't have it for hundreds of thousands of years, it can not be basic human right.

        but throughout those hundreds of thousands of years, every right was violated routinely. lives were taken, slavery existed, looting, robbing and pillaging were widespread. does it allow us to say, since we succeeded without these, so they are not necessary rights?

        however, we all agree, i think, that these should be rights. we want to live in a world with no murder, no slavery, no robbing and so on.

        can we say that the history of civilization is a struggle against such violations? we see the seeds of such values in the earliest civilizations. and one after the other, we gave up such unjust activities.

        do we see the seeds of private property in early civilizations? i'm sure yes. even native indians in america understand land ownership, and punish the other tribe for trespassing. they have their own tents, and own weapons. and even touching other people's stuff can ignite severe aggression. do our property rights develop, as we abandon violating property rights one after the other? i think yes. can it be any more obvious? private property rights have never been stronger than in our modern societies.
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          Nov 6 2011: Hello again Krisztian, I am not trying to take away from the nobility of the rights you outline. I respect life and respect of other people's property, that is not the point that I am discussing.

          I see those rights from a different perspective. I consider myself not only as part of a group of people that fall under the constitutional rights of one country in the planet, but as a part of a larger group, one that includes humans from other countries, and other times, even times before civilizations existed.That is where the scope of human rights falls in my view. My whole point is that humans precede civilizations. If you and I cannot not agree on that statement then I am afraid we will be going in circles trying to pile up more evidence that supports our different points of view or contradict each other's
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        Nov 6 2011: andres, how could you possibly miss my entire point, and go that much sideways?

        in one sentence: right to live or right to speak was also disregarded since the beginning of times.

        please tell me a difference between right to live and right to own stuff in historical regard. or in any regard.
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          Nov 6 2011: i did not miss it, your point is clear and i dissagree with it. i see right to life separate to right to own property. I consider none of the two arising from the other or depending on the other.

          You have not made it clear but i think your perspective is purely based on recorded history. My view is that humans have been humans for much longer than that. The view that evolution shows a constant ascension towards more "perfect" creatures (namely humans) and that human history shows an ascension towards more just societies is not shared by everyone

          Your argument seems to be based on the definition of human rights embeded in the US constitution. But i don't know you will have to clarify if that is the case. I think that view is limited. Certainly when it was written, the founding fathers did not wirite "all men are created equal" to include people all over the world. Not even all people in the colonies. It was a very select group of men that they were aluding to. So if that is the basis of your definition of human rights then I consider that view too narrow

          I can point you to many of the pre-hispanic civilizations in mexico that did not have a concept of private property, but shared comunal land ownership, and yet regarded life as the most precious value in a human

          you mention native americans defending their territories from invasion, but seems to me a little ambiguous to jump from a notion of private property as in personal property and the notion of private property as defending comunal land. do you care to elaborate?
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        Nov 6 2011: sorry, andres, but the theory of liberty and property is european, and not american. i'm hungarian, and i subscribe to a world philosophy developed in austria, and much of their ideas are taken from french thinkers. so the US constitution means not much to me.

        i'm no historian, but based on what i saw, some form of private ownership existed everywhere, even in the hunter gatherer societies. granted, that was rudimentary, so was the concept of the right to live.

        and i don't remember mentioning the indians' struggling with invasion. i was talking about their native lifestyle. they had the concept of "the land we use" and "the land other tribes use". and yes, this was not personal ownership. but it is a rudimentary, limited form of ownership. the concept of land being not for everyone was already there. it just follows from they could not possible defend their land alone. but i'm quite sure that their tents were private place, and nobody could just enter at will.
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          Nov 6 2011: thanks for clarifying Krisztian, mine was only a guess since you did not mention what was the basis to your world philosophy. Even now you only mention that it was one developed in Austria but i am left with no pointers as to where to learn more about it. Not that i don't take your word for it, but as a physicist I am a little skeptical and i tend to expand myresearch as much as i can.

          The generalization of "some form of private ownership existed everywhere", like almost any generalization, is useless if it is not supported by facts. Again if you point me to specific examples i will be glad to read about it and form my own opinion.

          Are you trying to infer that if i set up a tent for my family and I am weary of letting somebody in is not because I feel an innate drive to protect those with whom i share some kinship in order to ensure their survival, but because i have an innate drive to protect my human right to personal property?
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        Nov 6 2011: no, i've said the basis of my philosophy was developed in austria, not the arguments i have presented here. these arguments stand alone.

        and actually what do you want facts for? you want examples of early civilizations having personal property? every writing is full with tales about stuff of people. his dog, his staff, his hat, his house. or that we can have a right that was routinely violated? these things don't call for proof. it is common knowledge.

        so you say that your house is only a place to protect your family? so i can enter your house anytime you are not at home? i can take whatever i please? you are OK with it?
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          Nov 6 2011: I do not see any real intention from you to have a dialogue. We can focus on our differences and beat them to death or we can see if there is room for some agreement, as small as it might be, and focus our dialogue in that area.

          I am willing to learn about something that I do not know, if you are willing to share what you know, but rather i find you asking others to take your arguments as valid as a matter of faith, adopting a condescending tone as if your opinion was for some reason more valid than any others.

          My opinion is just that. mine. I do not claim to speak for anybody else. I am very aware that our cognitive biases make us think that our point of view is always better than the "other's", and the same cognitive biases make us think that we know other's peoples argument better than they know themselves. As such, i try to keep my biases under control by constantly reminding myself that the feeling that i have of knowing some topics much more deeply than you is only an artifact of my brain.

          So I cannot claim that i know your argument better than you know it yourself, but for me to understand it better, I need much more than a string of condescending one-liners.

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        Nov 7 2011: andres, you can interpret it as you feel like. or you can analyze my tone if you so desire. but i still don't know what kind of references or materials or explanation you want from me. so either you clarify what you want, or you won't get it.
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          Nov 7 2011: Hi Krisztian

          The point I was trying to make is that human right to life is universal, while human right to private property (as in my house, my car, my ipod) is not. From your comments I don't think you are referring to communal property but instead to individual private property.

          I know you disagree with me since you consider both universal human rights, so I was trying to understand your argument better. You seem to imply that this kind of right to individual private property follows naturally from the sole fact that we are humans.

          When I ask you about your world view is because other places where I have heard that claim is in John Locke's view of liberties and in Milton Friendman's version of laissez-faire capitalism. Both those views maintain that human self-interest and egoistic behaviors are the only mechanism behind progress.

          In my view their theory is incomplete because it does not incorporate the way in which motivation and decision making actually happens in humans, and it completely ignores cognitive biases and human altruism. So if the world view developed in Austria that you mention is different from Milton Friedman's, I would be very interested in reading about it to see if it has incorporated the human elements i mention above

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        Nov 7 2011: "human right to life is universal, while human right to private property (as in my house, my car, my ipod) is not"

        and what is your rationale? because your only argument so far was that property right was neglected. but i already said that right to life was also neglected. so what is your argument supporting that life is a right, but property is not?

        i still don't understand what do you want to hear from me. i have already described my take on the issue. you want me to list the background of my philosophy? it will be a long list, and even i don't know the full list, only a small fraction of it. the history of laissez-faire is old, and it is grounded in different interpretations and ideas of "natural law". i believe it was developed in the 1700's 1800's in europe, mainly in france and britain, if i'm not mistaken. bastiat, cantillon comes to mind. but i'm no historian, as i've said. but as always, if you want to understand a theory, it is not advisable to read the original material, as we have better ones today.

        if you are into a deep dive, choose "theory and history" from ludwig von mises.

        but once more: to address my points, you don't need any more readings. you don't need to consider historical civilizations. you just need to ask yourself: can i live freely without being able to have material objects and being able to use them? and if i don't live freely, do i live? do i own my life? one can not exist without the other.
    • Nov 6 2011: I'm totally with Krisztian here.

      The basic rights are spiritual in the sense of not being material.

      But in order to enable and encourage spiritual blossom,
      legislators must not work in the spiritual matters,
      but have to work at them by the material aspect.

      Their only job is to enable the people to fulfill their god-given gifts,
      while not impaling on other peoples rights.

      Krisztian, to the likes of you I intended this debate (although it is good to see the array of comments that are all very interesting).
      The purpose was to ask those believing in American style rights how they should be put?
      (Q2) I have no idea, and nothing seems to fit, so I would like your help.

      Andres, are these rights changeable?

      And also (again, try as short as possible)- where do these rights come from if not from G-d?
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        Nov 7 2011: Hi Ethan,

        I have to agree with you, legislators should stay out of spiritual matters and focus on the material.

        Fulfilling one's gifts should by definition be limited to making sure that other people can fulfill their own as well.

        One of the problems is that sometimes more than one individual will lay claim to a particular gift (whether it is a piece of land in Jerusalem or the monetary reward for a technological innovation) and being something material, a third party is required to arbitrate the resolution of these claims. I guess that third party is the role that government (legislators, judges, the legal system) are supposed to play when the fulfillment of one's gifts in a society compromises somebody else's ability to fulfill theirs.

        If by asking if these rights are changeable you mean that they should adapt to new realities, my answer would be yes, since the world we live on is not static.

        I think both a religious and an atheist will agree that the right to life is a basic human right. So let me stick with that one right. For a religious, life is something that comes from a deity, whereas for an atheist life it is something that comes from natural processes of this planet, using chemical elements that were created somewhere else billions of years ago.

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    Nov 3 2011: You are discussing “rights” as absolutes that one receives at birth from who knows where. You get them and keep them without ever having to earn them and are entitled to them until you die. You don’t have to be good, do right, or do anything, you just have them, by right.

    Clearly that is nonsense. Those so called rights never reach some people, others have them stripped from them overnight, millions suffer breaches of these so called rights every day. There is no “right” that you can’t lose by dint of circumstance, war, mischance, crime, mistakes, poverty, or any number of other reasons.

    What we are talking about are privileges. Privileges that civilised societies can deliver by some degree of general agreement within society. Privilege is never able to conferred equally, but if conferred generally it can be delivered at acceptable or at least predetermined or affordable level.

    Privileges always carry responsibilities and for the most part privileges have to be constantly earned to be maintained. Those responsibilities are as important as the privileges themselves and more so than a quick set of general “rights” patched together couple of hundred years ago. The US Bill of Rights was an inspiring document for it’s time and in the prevailing circumstances but the lack of precision and consequent lack of clarity has become a real problem.

    Rights exist in the same land as equality, I believe it’s called dreamland.
  • Oct 27 2011: How about the right to have a home, a job etc?
    How about the progressive view?
  • Oct 24 2011: I don't see how one can say dying is a "right" since there is no choice in the matter. You are going to die, like it, want it, need it, or not. A right to me is something you don't yet have but you do have, and you can avail yourself of it, if you so choose.

    One thing that really astounds me still (sorry about that), is that people are so adamant and willing to live like "animals" with the perpetuation of the belief, "you don't have rights!" I mean, c'mon! You're born and that's it? Then why in the world are people still fighting for them? See a baby being kidnapped? Stay out of it! It's not your business!! They don't have any rights anyway! OH, except - death! They have that one. Let them have it. Leave human traffickers alone because no one has any rights. Just power to use as they choose and if you are so fsuking lucky to not have been born poor, enslaved, persecuted against or stigmatized in some way, too bad for those who are without. So, it seems already there are those with and those without. With rights and without rights.
    It's true, so stop lying to yourselves and one another. You are not civilized. Civilization has not yet begun and it may never begin with thinking like that.
    I believe if you or we truly want a peaceful world, a survivable world, a viable world, a safe world, we better make Human Rights, recognized and enforced everywhere. And not by Gestapo tactics either.
    I wrote a list of 32 Human Rights. I will post them if anyone cares to read and abuse them. They are almost 2,000 characters long and won't fit in this post.

    This might help but, maybe it won't.
    Look at them as needs rather than rights. We all have the same Human Needs to survive beyond mere animal survival, and our environment must provide those needs. They also come from one another. Now this earth is going to fail us if we don't change. But, then again, I guess the only right we have is death. I don't agree cuz I wouldn't want life to be that way for so many and but not for me.
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    Oct 23 2011: These are really hard to define. I like how the Founding Fathers worded it and reading the rest of their writings I understand that the point was to keep people free from governmental tyranny. I personally think that what they wrote is the best definition on our basic human rights that I have yet seen.

    The fundamental question is I think where these right come from. If they are granted by Government, then Government has the right to take them away. If there is no higher power of any kind out there, then government is the highest power and we get only what they choose to allow.

    If there is a higher power out there then government must answer to it and that opens a who other kettle of fish. It's tricky.

    I think fundamental human rights are the rights to live as you see fit so long as you don't harm or infringe on anyone else's rights to do the same and the right to defend yourself from such incursions on your rights with extreme prejudice. I think people have the right to create, make or produce whatever they wish and do with said things whatever they like, such as sell, give or trade them without being taxed unreasonably so long as they do not violate any one elses rights.