6/14/2008

Let's not turn human rights into a battle ground

This is the title of Lydia Lim's article in the ST today. In the international scene, human rights has taken the form of inter state rivalry, a new form of warfare launched by the Americans against emerging nations, especially China and the rest of the world. Domestically, it is another issue that bothers around civil liberty, freedom of expression and the right of choice, independent choice to do and live as unfettered human beans. I will just mention a few phrases or sentences from Lydia's article which she quoted from Walter Woon and replace the words 'human rights' to 'civil rights' and see how the meaning could change to something more relevant to the people. 'What we are against is the assumption of some people that when they define what human rights are, that decision is the decision for the rest of humanity.' - Walter Woon. Change this to 'What we are against is the assumption of some people that when they define what civil rights are, that decision is the decision for the rest of Singaporeans.' Then substitute these civil rights and decisions with issues like CPF savings, CPF Life, etc, do we see that there are some similarities in the imposition of what some people think are good onto everyone, like it or not? Walter Woon also stated his fear of human rights fanatics and said, 'these are people who evidently believe that they and their values represent the apex of human moral development'. Do we have fanatics who think that their values or assumptions are the apex of human moral developments in our midst? Do we have people who think that it is good for you and decide to structure your life, your lifestyle and also how to use or spend your money? The only paragraphs that I share with Lydia are these, 'Like Ms Singam, I firmly believe that Singapore needs human rights champions, but I would like to point out that we need them not just in civil society but within the ranks of officialdom as well. I agree with her that the social realities we are confronted with show that respect for human rights is crucial to the right conduct of relations within societies and between states.' Absolutely. Between the ruler and the ruled, some must be champions of human rights. It reminds me of the days of the colonial masters in Africa and India, when the rulers would dictate the rights of the ruled people. The human rights champions in a democracy are different from the human rights champions of feudal societies.

3 comments:

Matilah_Singapura said...

When people speak of "rights" they only feel comfortable telling half the story -- i.e. on the side where the "right" claimed is of some "benefit" to those who claim the right.

What people evade is the other side of the issue: responsibility.

If you say "My child has the right to an education" or "I have the right to public healthcare" means that someone else has the responsibility of providing that "right" i.e. the state will tax others (mostly unknown strangers) to get the funds needed to pay for your precious "right". The state doesn't discriminate: single people are taxed for child education, private property owners are taxed to provide public housing, private car owners are taxed to subsidise public transport, people who go to private doctors pay taxes to fund public healthcare.

In the free market, you choose what you want, you pay for it and get it. If the good is of low quality and not to your liking, you refuse to buy.There is no force involved. If the good is faulty or you suffer as a result of a defective good, you sue for damages.

However when the state is involved, you pay anyway and you don't have a say over the quality of the goods you pay for. If you get lousy quality or dangerous goods (e.g. MRT tunnel caves in) you have no recourse: you can't sue the state.

The only proper, natural right is the human's right to his own life, and everyone elses responsibility is to LEAVE THE PEACEFUL INDIVIDUAL ALONE. This does not impose any "cost" on others to provide the responsibility of this right, because leaving people alone means NOT acting to interfere with their lives in any way.

redbean said...

i just wrote a piece on the right to buy petrol in JB and to spend money freely in JB. Free market mechanism must prevail. Singapoeans should not be compelled to pay more for petrol when they can get it cheaper in JB.

Matilah_Singapura said...

It's all very well to say "the free market must prevail" unfortunately due to the ability of states to enforce their absolute territorial power, the free market is frequently hampered (which causes even more problems in the future).

There is a fact about trade which has been overlooked here: you can only BUY if the seller is willing to SELL. If the state gets in the way and prohibits sales to certain groups of people, then those people cannot buy-- legally.

However human nature is such that "humans respond to incentives". If there is enough incentive (potential profit outweighs potential risk) to sell on the black market, such activity will occur, and a spontaneous market will emerge in the underground economy.