Saturday, February 05, 2011

Is Internet access a human right?

That's what some people seem to think. In what sense is Internet access as a "right"?

I listened to this week to an interview on NPR in which a guest--some expert on the Internet--was telling the NPR interviewer that Internet access is a "right"--not just any right but a "basic human right."

This is just one example of the rhetorical inflation we have seen when it comes to rights language. What does it mean to say that Internet access a right? What is a right? And what is a human right?

It can only mean one of two things to say that something is a right. A right is either legal or metaphysical. If it is legal, then there ought to be some kind basis for it in a written statute or in some kind of case law. If it is a metaphysical right, then it ought to have some kind of rational or revelatory basis.

When you talk about "human rights" about the only thing you can mean is that it is a metaphysical right, since we can criticize written laws themselves for not complying with them.

So the people who say that Internet access is a "human right" are basically saying there is some metaphysical basis for it.

So why it is a human right? Because we like it? Is everything we like a right? Is it because it is good for us? Is everything that is good for us a "right"?

Notice that few of the people who say things like this actually give a reason for saying them, which is a pretty good indication that they don't really have one.


Art said...

Well, it is in the Bible, so why not ....

Art said...

The Internet is in the Bible, so why not?