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Sunday, December 07, 2008

International Human Rights Day is a good occasion to celebrate property rights and individual liberty

December 10th is the 60th anniversary of International Human Rights Day, a day that commemorates the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is using the occasion to promote its own efforts to “foster equality, promote fairness, and encourage the creation of inclusive workplaces and communities.”

The AHRC is in damage control mode these days, largely due to Ezra Levant’s campaign to “denormalize” the work of these commissions across Canada. Former Western Standard publisher, Levant successfully defended a human rights complaint against the magazine for our decision in 2006 to re-print cartoon images of the Muslim prophet Mohamed. He continues to fight to remove Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which prohibits so-callled "hate speech' on the Internet.

The 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an ideal occasion to reconsider the nature of human rights and the work of government human rights bodies, especially as this work concerns freedom of speech and expression.

Equality, fairness, inclusion – these are all admirable values, but should they be the foundation for human rights legislation?

Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand wrote that property rights are the foundation of human rights, and any claim to a universal legal right to equality, fairness and inclusion, for instance, violates legitimate individual rights.

Here are some excerpts from Rand on property rights:

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

“Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 94

The doctrine that “human rights” are superior to “property rights” simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of “human.”

John Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, 182

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.
Any alleged “right” of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.

“Man’s Rights,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 96

It is only on the basis of property rights that the sphere and application of individual rights can be defined in any given social situation. Without property rights, there is no way to solve or to avoid a hopeless chaos of clashing views, interests, demands, desires, and whims.

"The Cashing-in: The Student Rebellion," Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 259

Let’s make this International Human Rights Day a celebration of property rights and individual liberty.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on December 7, 2008 in Freedom of expression | Permalink


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Matthew, good post.

I found an interesting quote in this (http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=8235) article...

"Wherever private property rights to profits are attenuated, we expect more choices to be made on the basis of non-economic factors, such as race and other physical attributes. That’s especially the case where there is no profit motive at all, such as nonprofit entities like government and universities."

It is ironic that the more entities like the AHRC try to make things equal, the more they will actully make them unequal.

Posted by: TM | 2008-12-07 11:14:06 PM

Mr Steel is correct. Human rights has never been a fairness doctrine, because such a thing cannot exist. It's about creating protected classes and using the powers of the state to intervene when these positions are threatened. In other words the so called victims are the victimizers.

"The achievement of the "Protective Shield" marks a significant phase and a major victory in the march toward human rights in Canada. Previously, the role of the state had been to protect the rights of the discriminator: traditional rights like freedom of speech and freedom of association were interpreted to mean the right to declare prejudices openly, to refuse to associate with members of certain groups, including refusing to hire them or to serve them. Courts and governments in Canada were still upholding and enforcing the right to discriminate into the 1950s. (78) It represented a fundamental shift, a reversal, of the traditional notion of citizens' rights to enrol the state as the protector of the right of the victim to freedom from discrimination. It was, in fact, a revolutionary change in the definition of individual freedom."


Posted by: DJ | 2008-12-08 12:06:29 AM

AB Justice Minister, Alison Redford, has an upcoming meeting with Rob Nicholson. Ostensibly this is about remedies for an out-of-control justice system but would it be naive to think the topic of the HRCs is not going to be included.

That she is trying to upload justice issues in AB to the feds is cute - there is a whole lot that the AB gov't could have done and still can do without involving the Feds, but it is choosing not to do. How can justice not deal as well with the quasi-judicial units in place, namely the HRC and the IRBs operating within AB.

Since the ON HRC/T have recently been given more funding and more powers, could this be a meeting to reinforce the AB HRC in a similar way?

Premier Ed has not done a thing with the HRC issue and seems to have no intent to do so - despite loads of letters, e-mails, etc. to remove freedom of speech/expression sections from the Act. Rob Nicholson has also acted in ways that suggest he, also, is not likely to make any changes to the CHRC/T.

Let's hope that this does not become just one more roll-over with AB again following along the rule of Central Canada.

Posted by: Calgary Clippper | 2008-12-08 10:19:17 AM

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