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HUMAN RIGHTS

 
Human rights are defined as the freedoms of action and freedoms from harm that every individual holds in equal quality and quantity with every other individual, without regard to arbitrary distinctions such as race, religion, wealth, gender, nationality, etc. These rights are assumptions, or initial conditions that are subject to additions and improvements based upon advances of knowledge.

 

Human rights are inalienable, and their scope is limited to the extent that the exercise of human rights by one individual must not interfere with the human rights of any other individual. Another important feature of human rights is that they are the exclusive property of each individual; governments do not possess and therefore cannot "grant" human rights to anyone. Governments may give legal sanctions to groups of people such as corporations and trade unions, but such sanctions do not come under the heading of human rights; human rights pertain only to individuals.

 

Although no government can grant human rights to anyone, democracies, unlike authoritarian governments, are obligated to secure and protect the universal, inherent, and equal human rights of their citizens. Human rights include the following substantive rights, property rights, political rights and legal rights:
 

Substantive Rights

  1. Right to life, liberty and security of person
  2. Right to freedom from torture
  3. Right to freedom from slavery
  4. Right to freedom from interference with home, family or correspondence
  5. Right to freedom from attacks upon reputation or honor
  6. Right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
     

Property Rights

  1. right to purchase, own, and dispose of property, including contracts and the knowledge and skills that one gains from an education or work experience
  2. right to copyright and patent protection
     

Political Rights

  1. right of citizenship and nationality
  2. right of the citizens to determine the authority of government (voting rights). The right of the people to determine the authority of a government establishes that government as an electoral democracy*
  3. right of representation and participation in the government
  4. right to freedom from press censorship or coercion (freedom of the press)
  5. right to freedom of opinion and expression (freedom of speech)
  6. right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association (including the right not to be forced to join an association or organization)
     

Legal Rights

  1. right to equal status and equal protection under the law
  2. right to protection of human rights by the government. The recognition by a government of its obligation to secure and protect the human rights of its citizens establishes that government as a liberal democracy*
  3. right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The impartial continuation of this human right requires the government to have an independent judiciary.
  4. right to freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention (right to a writ of habeas corpus)
  5. right to freedom from bills of attainder and ex post facto laws
  6. right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
  7. right of the accused to a public trial by a jury of peers
     

An important distinction of human rights is that they pertain to inalienable freedoms, and are not claims to alienable assets or services (The sole exception to this rule occurs when a government makes an accusation against an individual, as in a criminal case of law. If the accused cannot afford legal aid, he or she has the right to obtain (alienable) legal aid at the expense of the government. In this situation, a threat to the individual’s loss of freedom at the hands of the government triggers the conditional right to legal aid from the government.)

 

In particular, human rights do not include the "right" of one individual to claim the possessions (tangible or intangible) of another individual. That claim, if enforced, would violate the property rights (a division of human rights) of the second individual, since it would interfere with the freedom of the second individual to use and dispose of personal possessions as he or she desires. For example, a government should be concerned with the lack of food (or water, shelter, medical care, education, etc.) of individuals within its jurisdiction. However, the government’s solution to that problem cannot be to "grant" one person a "right" to the food that is owned by another because the enforcement of the new "right" would be in violation of the property rights of the person who owns the food. (In any case, as previously stated, governments do not possess human rights and they cannot "grant" human rights to anyone.) The problem with the lack of food or other alienable commodity is the lack of sufficient means to purchase that commodity – a problem of living standards (see discussion of living standards*), not a problem of human rights.

 

* see glossary

 

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