Thursday, April 3, 2008

The slippery slope of human rights

There is a flap going on in Canada at the moment over the fact that this country scuttled a German-Spanish U.N. initiative to have access to water become a human right. This has brought out the barking boy-scout one-worlders who have a large presence in Canada. These folks seem to think that anything that runs its course through the great and glorious United Nations somehow acquires by that fact alone a moral authority that exceeds any other force on Earth. We even had a Prime Minister who ceded Canadian sovereignty to the United Nations to decide whether Canada should go to war.

“Well, you know, if the U.N. is fer it, by gum, then we’re fer it too! I reckon.”

However, even Maude Barlow, a well-known Canadian nationalist-socialist, who has challenged water exports to the United States, favoured this resolution. She has some idea that this will prevent the commercialization of water, which, of course, is a big thing with Barlow because the most important human right to her is the one that prevents anybody making EVIL PROFITS.

I would argue the opposite. If you make it a human right, then how can Canada, which has so much water, prevent its water from draining south from the Great Lakes to feed the drought stricken areas of the United States. All the U.S. has to do is refer to Canada’s agreement at the U.N. that water is a basic human right and it has no moral authority to dispute the U.S. right to protect American human rights. This is a very slippery slope, although Barlow calls that notion “fantastical”.

The Americans have been very careless about water use, building cities and communities in deserts, draining aquifers and rivers, and irrigating huge desert areas for crops. In many places they are beginning to run short. Last year there was a drought in Georgia and Florida. Atlanta was reduced at one point to a 90 day reserve of water. Three states entered into negotiations to share water, but those negotiations broke down. There is a great deal of pressure being applied by the politicians from southwest states to their counterparts in Great Lakes states to divert the lake water south.

Human rights traditionally have been circumscribed by the relationship of individuals to their society. We understand the right to liberty, free speech, freedom to practice religion or not, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom to vote in elections and to hold public office. From these we derive other rights; such as, freedom of the press (media), freedom from incarceration without due process of law, equality between men and women.

Once you start to stray from these basic understandings, odd things happen. For example, we have a problem in Canada at the present time because Article 13 in the Canada Human Rights Act, as interpreted by the Supreme Court of Canada, in a closely divided decision, has legally enshrined the human right of “not being offended.” This has now opened the door to frivolous complaints that are threatening the basic human right of free speech. Such is the uproar this has caused that Parliament must now consider either scrapping Article 13, or scrapping human rights commissions.

This U.N. proposal now wants to extend human rights, not to relationships between individuals and society, but to natural resources. If that were done, you would see the law of unintended consequences flourish in all its grandeur.

For example, why would it not be open to suggest that access to fossil fuels is a human right? After all, the entire planet’s economy is married to energy provided by fossil fuels, and without them there would be an international collapse the likes of which the world has never seen. So if Venezuela’s Mr. Chavez wanted to withhold that country’s petroleum from the world market, or, more specifically the U.S. market, would the United States suffer moral condemnation if it invaded Venezuela as a matter of enforcing “human rights”?

Far fetched, you think? Third world countries have already raised a derivation of this argument in resisting efforts by first world countries to get them to agree to not develop on the back of fossil fuels. Economic development is seen by these countries as a “human right” and we have no business dictating to them how it should be undertaken. One African commentator said, “Do you expect us to run our railroads with solar panels and windmills (when you take full advantage of fossil fuels to run yours)?”

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