One Small Step Against Hate Crimes

On November 4th, the movie Vincent Who? will be making it’s Los Angeles premiere. This documentary was developed and produced by the folks over at Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, and if you are in Southern California I highly recommend that you come.

Over 25 years ago, the hate crime murder of Vincent Chin in Detroit galvanized the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. This new 40-minute documentary, winner of the Media Award from the National Association for Multicultural Education, looks back at the movement that started from the case and asks how far we have come and how far we still need to go.[apap]

The story of Vincent Chin’s horrible murder is an important historical event marking how hate crime policies developed for the APIA community. The movie traces the event and how little is remembered about this landmark case. Chin’s story is one that as South Asian Americans, we can all relate to. Every few months it seems another story of a hateful crime against a South Asian comes through the Sepia Mutiny bunker. It feels repetitive to write stories about hijabs getting pulled, brass knuckle beatings, or the murder of 26 yr. old Satendar Singh for being in a park. But these are the stories occurring in our community that deserve to be told.

Today also marked another historical landmark for hate crimes. After ten years of opposition and delay, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

[The legislation makes] it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. The new measure expands the the scope of a 1968 law that applies to people attacked because of their race, religion or national origin. The U.S. Justice Department will have expanded authority to prosecute such crimes when local authorities don’t.[huffpost] The president had this to say at the commemorative event after the signing:

And that’s why, through this law, we will strengthen the protections against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth. We will finally add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (Applause.) And prosecutors will have new tools to work with states in order to prosecute to the fullest those who would perpetrate such crimes. Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability.[whitehouse]

The signing of this legislation marks an exciting day that many of community activists in the our community have worked long and hard for. Hopefully, the effects of the bill will make a significant improvement to how hate crimes are categorized and legislated on the ground.

Full disclosure: I make an appearance in the film talking about the importance of web organizing for getting the word out on hate crimes in the community. Should still be a good movie.

This entry was posted in Community, Events, Politics by Taz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Taz

Taz is an activist, organizer and writer based in California. She is the founder of South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), curates MutinousMindState.tumblr.com and blogs at TazzyStar.blogspot.com. Follow her at twitter.com/tazzystar

119 thoughts on “One Small Step Against Hate Crimes

  1. “Segregation kind of cuts directly against that what with its active denial of certain people’s liberties and its focus on diminishing the welfare of a segment of society.”

    YogaFire, I am not sure of your point… are you saying hate crimes do NOT do that?

  2. You realise this is an entirely circular argument? It has very little to do with a political, ethical, or moral analysis, as opposed to a legal one. – see above re: segregation for an example of how something legal can be entirely wrong, unethical, discriminatory, violate individual rights, etc. you can probably name 5 other examples within a minute off the top of your head.

    to pick a diff example, the initiation on the use of force is the core delta b/t the salvation army santa claus ringing his bell & asking for a donation vs. the welfare dept (indirectly) sending the IRS to get $$ out of you. It’s why your avg salvation army worker is likely far more dedicated than your avg GS-11 working in some lost cubicle at the Dept of HHS.

    The broader issue illustrated here is the diff b/t the relative size of the civil society sphere vs govt. This is far from a circular issue and is the #1 thing that I think progressives always seem to miss — just because something is “Good” (in an ethical, moral, etc. sense) rarely means it should be “statute”.

  3. just because something is “Good” (in an ethical, moral, etc. sense) rarely means it should be “statute”.

    and so… why have any laws at all?

  4. The broader issue illustrated here is the diff b/t the relative size of the civil society sphere vs govt.

    I would say the broader issue is the relative amount of power of civil society institutions and trends and state institutions and trends. In this sense, organisations, ethos, etc. in both spheres can have an impact on individuals, but libertarians in the United States, excepting left libertarians, frequently only pay attention to the role of power in the state sphere, which basically denies that any form of power besides legally formalised power exists. This is somewhat blinkered in my opinion. We all know that if your boss can fire you, he/she has power over you, that gender hierarchies and race hierarchies exist. So what gives? Society and corporations get a free pass from libertarians, just because they’re not formally part of the government?

    Anyway, I think this will go on endlessly and is not the central point of the conversation so I’ll leave off in the paradigm clas here. :)

  5. YogaFire, I am not sure of your point… are you saying hate crimes do NOT do that?

    I argued early on that hate-crimes should be prosecuted. What I’m saying is that the typical liberal rationale for doing so, which is to tut-tut the racists, is the wrong one since tut-tutting is not the government’s job. It’s to protect people’s liberties from being enfringed by other people.

    Why is it different? I never understand this about libertarians. If its opposition to state power and the rights of individuals you’re concerned with, why reinforce the idea that the state has a special place. Just treat it like any other institution or set of institutions in analysing it. otherwise, you just reinforce its mythology.

    Different institutions have different duties and obligations that they’re suited to. It’s not “the state vs. everything else.” It’s an enormous venn diagram with different circles for every institution including states, families, associations, religious groups, customs, and so on and so forth. Come on Mr. Secularist. I would figure you of all people would appreciate the importance of drawing such jurisdictional lines.

    See, this is why I’m philosophically liberal and politically rather conservative (and neither of these bears any relationship to the terms used in modern American political discourse.)

    [quote]to maintain social stability in order that the ruling elites and their successors might benefit :O

    [/quote] Right, because we’ve seen how wonderfully those downtrodden masses fare in lawless, unstable societies. Who wouldn’t want to live in one of those veritable Marxist utopias? I’m saving up for a one-way ticket to Angola right now!

    and so… why have any laws at all?

    Provide for the common defense? Promote the general welfare? Ensure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity?

  6. and so… why have any laws at all?

    One broad quip describing the diff is that Libertarians support law that upholds “what is Right” (for ex., free speech) as opposed to “what is Good” (for ex., having an aversion to “Hate Speech”). “Right” tends to be objective and equally applied regardless of “who? whom?” while “good” is inherently more subjective and difficult to objectively define.

    More formally, for libertarians, laws that enforce Negative Liberty are desirable and Positive Liberty less so. “Freedom from Crime” is a Negative Liberty concept while “Freedom from Hate Crime” arguably takes you into Positive Liberty space.

    but libertarians in the United States, excepting left libertarians, frequently only pay attention to the role of power in the state sphere, which basically denies that any form of power besides legally formalised power exists.We all know that if your boss can fire you, he/she has power over you, that gender hierarchies and race hierarchies exist. So what gives? Society and corporations get a free pass from libertarians, just because they’re not formally part of the government?

    I heartily disagree with this one – power in the civil sphere is a core element of libertarian thought & is “governed” by economics and Free Association – for ex., Google is a far more effective “check” on MSFT’s power than the Dept of Justice. Amazon will ultimately be the greatest “check” on Wal-Mart. And employees leaving for rival firms and/or starting up their own firms is the ultimate check against the employer. Heck, Gary Becker’s Nobel Prize in Econ was primarily driven by how these mechanisms directly attack & break down “gender hierarchies and race hierarchies” and he did it with a very libertarian-esque, free market flair.

    These are all far more fluid, easily adopted mechanisms for exercising individual power in the face of collective power than just about any state / political mechanism and these are pretty central concepts from libertarian thought. They fly under the radar of many progressives b/c they aren’t things that require their own govt initiatives per se but are rather things individuals do by themselves or within other civil society organs.

  7. I see this is basically turning into a libertarians vs. progressives argument, so since we are on the topic, can someone make spasht (clear) a few points for me?

    Is it true libertarians don’t think people should have to pay taxes? If so, how do they purpose infrastructure like roadways, water, sewage, etc are run?

    On another note, the big argument here seems to be what is a law for human rights, and what is a law that forces a certain morality on people?

    I think the problem is that a lot of people here are not acknowledging that it is not a black & white issue: human rights vs. forced set of beliefs

    Having studied anthropology makes it clear that with all the varying cultural beliefs, religions, etc in this world, there is often a vast gray area between the two. For example, a big subject I have worked on in India: Is making universal education compulsory for all children (between ages 6-14, for example) protecting human rights (keeping kids in school, out of child labor, and giving them a chance to receive the knowledge and skills necessary in the world) or is it forcing a moral choice onto the families (school is good for kids, but having your children work is immoral)?

    Now, for someone raised in the U.S., the idea of education as a “human right” is petty well accepted. But it is not the same worldwide, in many places, education can be seem, not as valuable, but as a waste of time (say, for example, if it doesn’t result in a better job, but the educated person now refused to do manual labor, and hence ends up unemployed). In other cases, forcing children to go to school might for the family to take a hit in their income, making survival that much harder.

    So really, in most cases, I think it is really hard to say where human rights begin and morality ends. To me, human rights becomes the most basic, but also most widely accepted norms of morality.

  8. Now, for someone raised in the U.S., the idea of education as a “human right” is petty well accepted.

    This is really just a failing of the language. Human rights are rights that are so fundamental that someone who is deprived of them cannot be said to be living a truly “human” life. They’re very important (inviolable even) and, typically, very general (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness kind of thing.) This is generally black & white except in some pretty extreme circumstances (smother Hitler while he’s in the crib sort of things.) because human rights are so critical, it is very important that we not overuse the term by applying it to everything we happen to want. When we do that it just cheapens the concept when it really matters. Condemning China for human rights abuses in Tibet can lose some of its rhetorical heft if you cement the idea in the public mind that this is equivalent to not giving them universal public education, because while people might get up in arms about monks being shot and shoveled into ditches, they might not care so much about kids not being required to go to school.

    Where there are shades of gray are in things like political rights, civil rights, or entitlements that are really good to have and are arguably critical for maintaining a prosperous, just, and happy society. The reason these are gray is that while we would all love to have them, getting them imposes opportunity costs on people. As a result, we can still consider certain situations where it may be appropriate to do without them. Your example of exempting a kid from school if the family needs his labor to eat is an excellent one. Since these rights a violable and subject to context, they’re not fundamental human rights by definition. Education (in the sense of access to formal schooling) is one of these, as are other things that we generally like such as democracy, franchise, access to healthcare, and so on.

  9. One broad quip describing the diff is that Libertarians support law that upholds “what is Right” (for ex., free speech) as opposed to “what is Good” (for ex., having an aversion to “Hate Speech”).

    I never understood this willingness to self-label. I generally go through great pains not to pigeonhole myself. Figure out what your opinions are, then figure out the rough label that is completely inadequate to capturing the nuance in your perspectives, but good enough for a sketch and go with that. Focusing too heavily on what “libertarian” means reminds me of the Taoist parable about fixating on the finger instead of paying attention to the moon it’s trying to point at.

  10. Yoga Fire,

    I think your comment (#53) illustrates perfectly well how confusing it is to define human rights.

    For example, when you say that without human rights someone cannot be truly “human”, it reminds me of a viewpoint I have heard expressed many times in India, but most poignantly by one of my students in Bihar (the first in her family to be literate) who told me “Getting an education allowed me to become a human being”. Throughout most of my research with poor and street children in India, this idea of education making one human has come up again and again.

    The one of a child working versus going to school is especially gray because on one hand a child might be forced against his/her well to work in unsafe conditions for a pittance (forced either by economic reasons, or by the family itself). It is pretty much accepted worldwide that children have not developed the ability to be responsible for themselves yet, there are often extra and special laws to help protect the best interests of a child and protect them from harm.

    In the case of child labor vs. school, we will find that children who go to school benefit from greater access to knowledge in the world (from just being able to read your bank account, vote, or sign your name, all the way up to utilizing the internet or books to further access information). If a child is sent to be a laborer, they may be able to aid the family, but at the same time they are most often exposed to unsafe working conditions and unsavoury adults who may wish them harm. Additionally, since they are children, they are often paid a pittance, way less than an adult would be for the same work. Child involved in child labor are often too ill by the time they are adults (Born Unfree: Child Labour, Education, and the State in India: An Omnibus: The Child and the State in India, Born to Work, and Child Rights in India 2007) to work anymore, and then continue the cycle.

    If children were not working, companies would often be forced to hire more adults, at a higher wage. This would give poorer families a higher income while also freeing up children to get an education.

    Healthcare has many similiar gray areas. In many poor countries like Haiti (Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer) TB is a huge issue. Since people do not have any “right” to access the medicine for TB, they continue to work, pass the disease on to others, and eventually die of the disease. The weaker and sicker the get, the less they can work, the less they can eat, and hence get weaker still. But often these same people are painted as “noncompliant” because they do not take there medicine regularly, eat the food the doctor told them to, or to rest as was prescribed, because of course, they cannot afford to do any of these things as a poor person who relies on their day-to-day wages to barely keep them afloat.

    So, by making healthcare a right, you would be preventing a disease like TB to spread further (and cost further money and lives) while also helping those sick heal and be able to be productive members of society again.

    I think allowing people to suffer and slowly starve and die of a preventable disease is treating them as less than human, na?

  11. I think your comment (#53) illustrates perfectly well how confusing it is to define human rights.

    i agree. people should really read sen’s democracy and freedom before bloviating on this topic. you might choose to disagree with what he says, but at least it makes a serious critique that needs to be disputed.

  12. Throughout most of my research with poor and street children in India, this idea of education making one human has come up again and again.

    The idea that “getting an education” = “going to school” is kind of a 20th century concept. We’re in a brave new world now and there are a lot more options open to us insofar as molding children into worthy citizens. And beyond that, it’s not just an issue of “education.” But how much education? What kind of education? It’s a really fuzzy word. Are we just talking about literacy and numeracy here or what?

    Additionally, since they are children, they are often paid a pittance, way less than an adult would be for the same work.

    I think you misunderstood what I meant by labor. Children always function as labor around the house. Ask anyone who grew up on a farm, even here in America, and they will tell you the same thing. In fact, the reason American schools created the idea of a summer vacation is so that the kids could take time off from school to help out around the farm. The idea of summer being a time for goofing off only came around once farming stopped being such a big deal.

    Since people do not have any “right” to access the medicine for TB. . .I think allowing people to suffer and slowly starve and die of a preventable disease is treating them as less than human, na?

    Not really. People have gotten by with such disease burdens for most of human history. Dealing with that sort of thing incurs opportunity costs, so you can’t consider the right inviolable (a standard you need to maintain for the label “human rights” to have any meaning.) One needs to distinguish between “that really sucks” and “that’s inhuman.” You can argue for programs to mitigate things that really suck, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all rights are automatically elevated to being fundamental for people’s humanity. There is nothing wrong with saying “we should have a universal public education system” just on the grounds that universal public education will make people happy and will make the country more prosperous and free. I don’t see why it become necessary to say if you don’t agree with me you’re violating people’s human rights because that kind of language automatically shuts down any room for reasoned discourse about cost/benefit analysis and effectiveness of programs.

  13. Who cares?

    I really dont see the slippery slope here. It’s not like you can say “They want to make the case that terrorizing a whole group of people is worse is than hating one person. What next? Putting me in jail for reading”

    Nothing negative from this. No slippery slope.

    How many times do we have to see examples of people gathering up a race and SUCCESSFULLY persuading that race of people to wage war on the other group before we realize that it is dangerous on a bigger scale.

  14. you = “one” he = sen

    difficult prose, but a must-read

    comment is targeted at those who talk about violable human rights and otherwise, without thinking the issue through.

  15. comment is targeted at those who talk about violable human rights and otherwise, without thinking the issue through.

    I’ve read Sen’s “Development as Freedom,” it’s required reading in development circles. But he focuses on stepping away from GDP and pure economic indicators when evaluating the health of societies. It has little to do with the casual disregard for the political philosophy grounding the concept of human rights. For that, you should try some Kant and John Locke.

    Let me put it another way. To say that access to state of the art medication is a human right is to declare that people living before that medication was invented weren’t really living a recognizably human life. Does anybody really believe that?

  16. To say that access to state of the art medication is a human right is to declare that people living before that medication was invented weren’t really living a recognizably human life. Does anybody really believe that?

    huh??? to say that preventing rape and violence is a human right is to declare that people living before the invention of police forces weren’t living a recognizably human life?

  17. huh??? to say that preventing rape and violence is a human right is to declare that people living before the invention of police forces weren’t living a recognizably human life?

    You don’t need formal police forces to enforce rules.

  18. miss,

    There are diseases for which there are no cure. Some of them, if we had resources, could presumably be cured, but medical research is costly in both time and money. Many of these as-of-yet uncured diseases are rare, and suffered by only a small percentage of the population. If we do not allocate resources to cure them, are we denying people their right to health care? These are the very thorny issues that considering health care a “right” brings to the fore.

    I am all for health care. I just don’t know that it can be a “right”.

  19. Some of you think to much.

    Its called “paralysis by analysis”

    According to some of you, if it doesnt take care of every hypothetical problem you can throw at it then you should do it.

  20. According to some of you, if it doesnt take care of every hypothetical problem you can throw at it then you should do it.

    Who the hell said “you shouldn’t do it?”

    The point has been that you should do it, but you don’t need to cast every position you support in the starkest possible terms. You can say that universal public education is a good thing worth doing on its own merits without resorting to borderline Orwellian tactics by trying to frame it as a human rights issue to score a cheap rhetorical point.

    Moreover, paralysis by analysis is the American way. The painstaking deliberation is what keeps us from leaping hastily into stupid quagmires. When you short-circuit that process with Orwellian rhetoric you end up tied down in some God forsaken dust-bowl for no good reason because you didn’t bother to think things through.

  21. There are diseases for which there are no cure. Some of them, if we had resources, could presumably be cured, but medical research is costly in both time and money. Many of these as-of-yet uncured diseases are rare, and suffered by only a small percentage of the population. If we do not allocate resources to cure them, are we denying people their right to health care? These are the very thorny issues that considering health care a “right” brings to the fore. I am all for health care. I just don’t know that it can be a “right”.

    there are neighborhoods we cannot protect. sure, if we had enough police, everybody could presumably be protected but staffing up police to that level is costly both in time and money.

    i am all for security. i just dont know that it can be a “right”.

  22. miss,

    Even in policing, we allocate them as best as possible. All resources are finite, and we must be careful in how we use them– there are always tradeoffs.

    There are not enough MRIs for everyone who needs a full body scan. There aren’t enough organs for all those who need transplants. There are not enough helicopters to airlift everyone who needs immediate care. There aren’t enough doctors to see every patient in a timely manner.

    If we consider health care a right, then we have to consider whether or not we treat a finite good’s allocation as an abrogation of a right.

  23. Even in policing, we allocate them as best as possible. All resources are finite, and we must be careful in how we use them– there are always tradeoffs.

    so do citizens have a right to security or not?

  24. Moreover, paralysis by analysis is the American way. The painstaking deliberation is what keeps us from leaping hastily into stupid quagmires.

    100,000 dead Iraqis might disagree with you.

  25. An inherent right? Only from the state. I do not believe, however, that you have an inherent right to be safe from those around you. It is a necessary service that the government should provide, because it is one of the hallmarks of a functioning society, but it is not a “right” in the same way that a fair trial is a right.

  26. Actually Yoga, I think you might be being sarcastic. Sarcastic is hard to read on these boards.

  27. so do citizens have a right to security or not?

    In the liberal/libertarion/american framework, citizens do not have the right to security, but security (national defense, etc) is a legitimate function of government since government has a monopoly on force. So things like defense, police forces, etc are subjected to democratic rule while rights, freedom of speech, etc, are not.

  28. An inherent right? Only from the state. I do not believe, however, that you have an inherent right to be safe from those around you. It is a necessary service that the government should provide, because it is one of the hallmarks of a functioning society, but it is not a “right” in the same way that a fair trial is a right.

    hmm, even enforcement of negative rights is not a responsibility of the state then… this is why i really prefer anarchy, it’s just clean and devoid of these pesky arbitrary lines.

  29. miss,

    Who said I’m for anarchy? I’m all for having police and medicine. I just don’t think that we can ascribe the term “right” to them. There’s a big distinction there. I also believe that ascribing “rights” to things that are essentially finite goods to be allocated throughout society brings up many questions.

    A good example I often use when it comes to “rights overreach” is Japan. In Japan, you have the right AND obligation to a job. But how do we enforce one’s right to a job? Is the state failing if there’s a recession and someone loses his job? Similarly, because the individual is “obligated,” do we coerce him to work if he’s willingly unemployed?

    Enumerating rights is a necessary feature of a functioning constitution, but if you enumerate rights that cannot be guaranteed in any meaningful way, it creates credibility issues.

  30. I remember seeing this movie last year at a screening in Connecticut, and I saw the sepaimutiny site and thats when I first checked you folks out!!

  31. Enumerating rights is a necessary feature of a functioning constitution, but if you enumerate rights that cannot be guaranteed in any meaningful way

    so there’s pretty much no right that can be guaranteed, why bother?

  32. so there’s pretty much no right that can be guaranteed, why bother?

    the rights you see enumerated in the bill of rights are guaranteed. they’re restrictions on govt power. so if the govt violates these rights,like say they establish an official religion or censor your blog or take your property without compensation., you have recourse in the courts.

    the constitution also has enumerated powers, like say a national defense. these are not rights but are enumerated as specific government powers since they serve to protect the freedoms citizens enjoy in a liberal regime…freedom form physical coercing. but there’s no guarantee that they government will succeed at the affectioned power. the citizens may choose to underfund the military and they can lose the war.

  33. A couple of interesting ones:

    “Article 25.

    * (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
    * (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
    

    ^ Top Article 26.

    * (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
    * (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
    * (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/)
    
  34. LinZi, Those aren’t “interesting” conceptions of human rights, they’re silly ones. Every nation in South Asia is in violation of Article 25(1); the US and Canada are in violation of Article 26(1) (because of, if you’re on the left, “legacy” admissions, and if you’re on the right, “affirmative action”). Defining human rights such that everyone is in violation is a sure-fire way of making sure nobody pays attention to your definition. Such is the reality, and indeed inevitable fate, of the UN’s definition.

  35. LinZi, I would commend you to the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy if you want to develop a more plausible conception of human rights than is found in the (ignored) UN documents. Here is a nice, and relevant, excerpt:

    Not every question of social justice or wise governance is a human rights issue. For example, a country could have too much income inequality, inadequate provision for higher education, or no national parks without violating any human rights. Deciding which norms should be counted as human rights is a matter of some difficulty. And there is continuing pressure to expand lists of human rights to include new areas. Many political movements would like to see their main concerns categorized as matters of human rights, since this would publicize, promote, and legitimate their concerns at the international level. A possible result of this is “human rights inflation,” the devaluation of human rights caused by producing too much bad human rights currency. . . . One way to avoid rights inflation is to . . . insist[] that human rights only deal with extremely important goods, protections, and freedoms. A supplementary approach is to impose several justificatory tests for specific human rights.
    In deciding which specific rights are human rights it is possible to make either too little or too much of international documents such as the Universal Declaration . . . . [O]ne makes too much of them by presuming that those documents tell us everything we need to know about human rights. This approach involves a kind of fundamentalism: it holds that if a right is on the official lists of human rights that settles its status as a human right (“If it’s in the book that’s all I need to know.”) But the process of listing human rights in the United Nations and elsewhere was a political process with plenty of imperfections. There is little reason to take international diplomats as the most authoritative guides to which human rights there are. Further, even if a treaty could settle the issue of whether a certain right is a human right within international law, such a treaty cannot settle its weight. It may claim that the right is supported by weighty considerations, but it cannot make this so. If an international treaty enacted a right to visit national parks without charge as a human right, the ratification of that treaty would make free access to national parks a “human right” within international law. But it would not be able to make us believe that the right to visit national parks without charge was sufficiently important to be a real human right.
  36. “Those aren’t “interesting” conceptions of human rights, they’re silly ones. ” When I said “interesting” I meant in terms to salience to the conversation at hand.

  37. Am I missing something here….?

    I am still perplexed as to what YogaFire, ArchanaP, (and others) think are human rights. My whole point was that they are not black & white, but rather confusing to decide. Many people responded that they are NOT confusing, but then proceeding to only say “safety from hate crimes, education, and health care are NOT human rights” but failed to mention, what, in their opinions, are human rights…?

    If you think that “life liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are clear and not subject to varied interpretation, I would be rather stunned. So where is your clear idea and definition of human rights, anyways?

  38. I heartily disagree with this one – power in the civil sphere is a *core element* of libertarian thought & is “governed” by economics and Free Association – for ex., Google is a far more effective “check” on MSFT’s power than the Dept of Justice. Amazon will ultimately be the greatest “check” on Wal-Mart. And employees leaving for rival firms and/or starting up their own firms is the ultimate check against the employer. Heck, Gary Becker’s Nobel Prize in Econ was primarily driven by how these mechanisms directly attack & break down “gender hierarchies and race hierarchies” and he did it with a very libertarian-esque, free market flair.

    Naive. You may disagree, even heartily.

    Libertarians for the most part are simply the younger (by age or otherwise) band among the larger group of reactionaries. Reactionaries seek to maintain order, thence, privilege, inheritance, and an assured and predictable future. This is effected by laying down laws for the rest of society, excepting their own. While there are certainly some genuine social conservatives among reactionaries, they aren’t any more out of type than it is find a traditionalist among the liberals. Among other goals, reactionaries also seek to break down the walls that keep economic power out of the arena of politics. One way is by the aggressive espousal of republicanism, which is as far as the reactionary is willing to concede to a political system based on popular franchise. Since the truths are eternal what need for a political system at all? If anything you simply need the best leader to maintain what is true and eternal. Libertarianism serves this end admirably well in providing a philosophical veneer to the proclivities of their young.

    The only centers of power that can be trusted with our franchise are the ones we create out of our vote and taxes, i.e., the arms of the state, that we can manipulate at a minimal cost to ourselves, or at least manipulate despite a disparity in resources. The arms of the state, too, are the only ones that can be held to account for moral failings, other power centers are amoral.

  39. what, in their opinions, are human rights…?

    It’s not a matter of mere opinion, it’s a matter of reason, with right and wrong answers. Freedom of thought would be an example of a rather uncontroversial human right. But please read the Stanford Encylopedia before asking more basic questions.

  40. ArchanaP, your unfriendly attitude is not very well appreciated. You seem utterly blind to the fact that you are making a circular argument, yet you are mocking me for asking “basic questions”, which you yourself cannot answer clearly.

    You just sent me to a link with links to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” which supports the very statements you just called “silly” earlier!! How can you say that this document is “silly” while at the same time espousing it as part of your supposedly “basic” dictionary definition of human rights.

    Not only that, but your link further espouses my viewpoint that Human rights and NOT black and white and easily definable by stating that:

    “The philosophy of human rights addresses questions about the existence, content, nature, universality, justification, and legal status of human rights. The strong claims made on behalf of human rights (for example, that they are universal, or that they exist independently of legal enactment as justified moral norms) frequently provoke skeptical doubts and countering philosophical defences. Reflection on these doubts and the responses that can be made to them has become a sub-field of political and legal philosophy with a substantial literature.”

    So, if the definition is so “basic” and obvious, WHERE is it?

  41. The fact that the Stanford Encyclopedia “mentions” the UN Declaration does not in any way suggest, to the careful reader, that it endorses its “use” as a serious source of human rights enumeration.

    Like the product of most processes of reasoning, there are easy cases (e.g., free access to national parks is not a human right, freedom of thought is a human right) and hard cases. Defining a plausible list of human rights is, in fact, quite difficult (I, for one, never suggested that it’s easy. What is easy is to say that the UN Declaration contains too many “human rights” that are not plausibly “really” human rights.) It’s also not ultimately definitive of much, since (nearly all) rights are not absolute, and they can be overridden (e.g., freedom of movement might be justifiably curtailed during an emergency).

  42. It’s not a matter of mere opinion, it’s a matter of reason, with right and wrong answers.

    You know, well, that’s like ….. your opinion, man.

  43. Let me put it another way. To say that access to state of the art medication is a human right is to declare that people living before that medication was invented weren’t really living a recognizably human life.

    well, either that, or that ‘human rights’ are a concept that can’t be rigidly defined, but whose content is always subject to politics, economics, deliberation, discussion, debate, but still have some core values / principles inherent in them (e.g. equality, freedom from violence, etc.) which are not, unfortunately, practicably absolute, but can still be held out as aspirational values. that doesn’t make the assertion of a common humanity less worthwhile – it just contextualises it while it mounts the claim. the alternative is basically to explicitly say that some people are better than others and rightfully so – how does that work out?

  44. the rights you see enumerated in the bill of rights are guaranteed. they’re restrictions on govt power. so if the govt violates these rights,like say they establish an official religion or censor your blog or take your property without compensation., you have recourse in the courts. the constitution also has enumerated powers, like say a national defense. these are not rights but are enumerated as specific government powers since they serve to protect the freedoms citizens enjoy in a liberal regime…freedom form physical coercing. but there’s no guarantee that they government will succeed at the affectioned power. the citizens may choose to underfund the military and they can lose the war.

    repeat after me: it’s just a piece of paper. what gives substance and meaning to politics is what people want. if they want to stick to a piece of paper from 200 years ago, that’s they’re prerogative, but they should be given a choice in the matter by articulating exactly that it is a piece of paper (mostly written by slaveholders and their allies at a time when direct election of most officials was frowned upon and land was considered a reasonable criteria for allowing votes).

    yeah, its content has changed over the years in practice and at times textually (tot he point where you might argue there’s a separate constitution after 1865), but it remains, at the end of the day, just a piece of paper. not really something i want deciding major policy issues much less what my attitude towards them should be. :)

  45. I think everyone should get targeted by racists, sexists, whatever-ists at least once. t shouldnt continue forever of course. It builds character. What a bunch of boring people we would all be otherwise…