[IRP] Some punch

parminder parminder
Thu Oct 7 11:33:42 EEST 2010


Thanks for your detailed response.

However I fundamentally disagree with your positive rights versus 
negative rights arguments expressed in the following para and many others

"The key point is, does that mean everyone should have
*free*  access - that is, should someone (who?) be obligated to
pay for access for those who cannot afford it on their own."

First of all the positive - negative is a conceptual category with 
limited analytical value, and thus not really used in any political 
document on rights. Terms like civil / political /economic / social/ 
cultural rights are the ones authoritatively used.

You see what you call as positive rights through the lens of government, 
taxes, buring money, politicians, budget debates and such, and 
correspondingly negative rights as involving "  to do something 
regardless of governments, limited only by your own means."

This is simply and patently not true. The kind of things that are 
limited to your means alone - and you are always free to do regardless 
anything beyond you - are few, like you can right now scratch the back 
of your head, and no one ever bothers to put them in rights documents.

Everything out in a rights document belongs to our polity, and it needs 
a polity to ensure those rights.

So, first of all, it is our rights regime that determines our governance 
systems, and we do not derive our rights regimes from our governance 
systems, as you are doing.

Secondly, as I said , each and every right requires a polity - 
government, taxes, laws, enforcement etc - to ensure that. Security, 
freedom of expression (it is not only exercised against the government 
of the day but against any other actor as well), privacy (no one walks 
into your house/ bedroom as one wishes), everthing needs systems and 
structures to be maintained with huge expenditures. And it all involves 
governments, taxes, burning money, budgets, politicians......

So your distinction is, in my opinion, false.

UN DHR mentions right to decent living, to free education etc etc.... 
and when you say you do not want confusing language, across what you see 
as positive right claims and negative rights , are you saying that if 
you were a part of CS group in 1948 discussing inputs for the UNHDR, you 
would have opposed these rights.

If not, a right to the Internet may also not be opposed on the 
conceptual argument alone that you are advancing.

I agree that there can be a difference of view whether 'right to 
affordable Internet' may not be in some ways better than 'a right to 
access the Internet' since the latter can be taken as no one should stop 
anyone from accessing the Internet if one is otherwise able to (among 
other things, being able to pay)

I think we should simple say 'everyone has the right to the Internet', 
which makes the obligation of the collective to develop social and 
economic structures in manner that everyone is able to access and use 
the Internet.


On Wednesday 06 October 2010 02:12 PM, Tapani Tarvainen wrote:
> On Wed, Oct 06, 2010 at 10:38:57AM +0530, parminder (parminder at itforchange.net)
>> In my opinion, one does not translate a set of human rights
>> standards into a new charter of rights (and I agree information
>> society may need a new, additional, charter),  as the present
>> process or project seeks to do.
> I must say I tend to agree, and I don't really like even my own
> formulation here (the 3rd paragraph: "Hence this charter, not an
> attempt to create new rights but..."). It would be better to state
> the purpose of the charter directly, without such, er, disclaimer.
> I can't offhand think of a good way to phrase it, however.
> As for the right of access:
>> It looks like both a logical and a political fallacy to say, one
>> does *not* have a 'right to the Internet', however, if somehow one
>> does manage to get there, one has the following rights.......
> I didn't like the "... under affordable conditions" either,
> and my "affordable access" doesn't feel much better.
> Yet it can be read as *stronger* than the obvious
> "everyone has right to access the Internet" or
> "everyone has right of access to the Internet".
> The key point is, does that mean everyone should have
> *free* access - that is, should someone (who?) be obligated to
> pay for access for those who cannot afford it on their own.
> Saying access should be "affordable" can be interpreted
> either way: that it should be available to everyone at
> a price they can actually pay (even if it's nothing
> for some), or that it is OK to charge a "reasonable"
> fee even if it means some people will be left out.
> Likewise, omitting it can be read either way:
> a negative right like traditional freedom of speech,
> which doesn't mean anyone else is obligated to pay for
> your means to say what you want as long as they don't try
> to stop you from saying it,
> or as a positive, subjective right that someone else
> should pay for the means if you can't afford it.
> As a matter of language, it would be much cleaner to
> leave such caveats as "affordable" away, and since
> as noted it doesn't really clarify the issue anyway,
> I'd suggest we omit it like Parminder says,
> and leave clarifications to part 2.
> Not that clarifying it will be easy, even
> agreeing on the substance, I fear:
>> It is as if we are creating a new autonomous entity over the
>> Internet, to which everyone *cannot* be accorded an automatic right
> If we are talking about it as a positive right,
> it indeed cannot in principle be guaranteed to everybody,
> as reductio ad absurdum easily proves: if *everybody* just
> demands it for free, who's left to provide it to them?
> With a negative right there is no such problem, but then
> it does implicitly limit it to those who can afford it.
> In practice the situation is of course murkier.
> Positive rights are generally spoken of with the implicit
> assumption that there's tax money around being burned anyway -
> which is of course generally true, and such rights are
> then understood merely as prioritizing budget expenses.
> Which is fine as far as it goes, but there is a danger:
> that the unavoidable implicit caveat
> "to the extent we (society/the government/...) can afford it"
> trickles down to impact the negative rights as well:
> from "you are free to say whatever you want as long
> as you can afford it" to
> "you are free to say whatever you want as long
> as the society (according to government) can
> afford the consequences".
> In practice there may not always be much of a difference:
> if you can't afford something it doesn't comfort you much
> that you wouldn't be prevented from doing it if you could.
> But some comfort it does offer, not only in the hope that
> your finances may improve but also, especially about
> freedom of speech, in that someone else may say what
> you want to hear and be said.
> In principle the difference is huge between right
> to get something from the government (which is always
> bound by limited resources and politicians balancing
> budgets, unavoidably debated every budget year)
> and the right to do something regardless of governments,
> limited only by your own means (which needs to be debated
> only when writing constitutions or charters of rights).
> I'd prefer to avoid language that confuses them.
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