06 October 2009

Manufacturing rights

One of the trends in recent years from statists of both sides of the political spectrum is the manufacturing of "rights". Not genuine rights, the rights to free speech, rights to control the use of your body, rights to your property, rights to interact peacefully with others. No. Rights to something someone else has produced which is to be supplied to you by force.

It started with the "right to life" not being the right to repel anyone else trying to do violence to you, but the "right" to compel others to provide you with food, clothing, housing and warmth.

Then came a "right" to education. A "right" to health care. A "right" to a job. Nobody asserting these ever wanted to make it clear what rights would be infringed upon to deliver this, or indeed what would happen if everyone demanded a "right" to a living and sat around waiting for it.

You see the difference between a genuine right (sometimes referred to as a negative right) is that your exercise of it does not take away from the right of others to do the same. My right to free speech does not take away from yours. Oh, and to be clear, my right to free speech does not demand anyone else supply a platform for it, but it does demand that others not stop me from producing or negotiating to acquire my own. For example, if blogger stopped allowing me to publish this, it wouldn't be infringing on my right to free speech, it would be asserting its own property rights. Indeed, it has granted me limited property rights here, so I can write as I see fit and can block commenters if I like - blocking your comments doesn't infringe on your right to free speech.

So called "positive rights", require taking from others. You see everyone on earth could have free speech, and it would take away from no one (except perhaps the superstructure upon which many regimes are built). However, to grant everyone a "right" to a home, education, health care, broadband or whatever is the latest trend, would cost. Indeed, assuming rights should be the same for everyone, imagine the cost. Notice how none of the statists arguing for such "rights" assert them across international borders. Your "right" to broadband doesn't apply in Chad, nor does your "right" to heart surgery. You might ask why not, if it is a "right". The truth is that it is no such thing - it is a claim upon others using language to place what is a fundamentally socialist concept on a higher ground than it actually is.

It is worth remembering the main reason "positive" rights came about was because the Soviet Union reacted against TRUE rights being advanced at the UN. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was created in 1966, as a Western attempt to push true freedoms onto the UN agenda. It is far from perfect, but does include rights to freedom from torture, the right to not be arbitrarily deprived of life, freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of movement including leaving one's country, freedom of association, freedom of speech etc.

However, this perturbed the USSR, which of course routinely ignored all of the above. So it created the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It included a "right to self determination" (not individual self determination mind you), the rights to work, social security, a minimum standard of living, etc.

None of this really matters, as New Zealand is a signatory to both, but then, so is North Korea. The US did not ratify the latter, but did the former with reservations.

So why raise it now? Because Brendon Burns, Labour's Broadcasting spokesman, has said you have a "right" to watch the Rugby World Cup on free to air television.

Yes, presumably in asserting this "right", he should provide you with a TV as well as the programming. Indeed, why can't I assert this "right" in London? If it is a "right" then why not?

Brendon is of course complaining about the ridiculous taxpayer funded Maori TV bid, but it's not just about that. He wants state TV to carry it. He specifically shuts out Prime TV, because of coverage reasons, and ignores TV3. So in other words, the Labour Party wants to force the NZRFU to give TVNZ the rights to broadcast the Rugby World Cup. Nationalisation of programming if ever it was.

Of course it is genuinely pathetic. Nobody has any "right" to watch anything. The Rugby World Cup is no more special than watching M.A.S.H, Ed Edd and Eddy, Bro-Town or championship fencing. Just because a lot more people want to watch it, doesn't mean there is some magical "right" imposed on the suppliers of the Rugby World Cup to hand over the rights.

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