What Are Basic Human Rights?


I think we have gone too far in what many believe are basic human rights without considering what actually are those same. It’s troubling to me that people say that healthcare, housing, education, yes even food is a basic human right but how do we implement these “basic human rights” for all when there are only a few that pay for them?

That’s the question of the ages I think. I’m not against any of these but there has to be a way to provide all of these without bankrupting the taxpayer who would be responsible for the tab. Our healthcare system is a disaster, has been for a long time, and the “Affordable” Care Act, did nothing to ameliorate  the way that health care is provided. Some are now saying we should just have “Medicare For All”, but again, what does that do to the system when the government decides how much a doctor or hospital is paid for a specific procedure? We’ve already seen doctors dropping out, and hospitals will do the same if this is ever implemented. Then, yes, we will have healthcare for all, but access to that system will become limited.

the same with edulcation. I was intrigued when President Obama proposed free tuition for community colleges. If I recall, it was at a cost of $60 billion over several years. This wasn’t free education as the student would still have to pay for books, and the fees imposed, but would significantly lower the cost. Of course it didn’t go anywhere and in fact wasn’t even debated much that I noticed.

All of these should be explored but don’t answer the question of what are considered basic human rights? None of the above, in my opinion are, so what would those rights be?

Freedom of Speech: No one should be persecuted because of what they say. We should be able to criticize government, as well as any institution without fear of being jailed because that government has decided that certain speech is not allowed. Criticizing sexual orientation, or Islam in some western countries is considered hate speech and those have been prosecuted simply for saying aloud what the believe. To me hate speech is invoking violence against someone or a group, not simply a criticism. Today on social media any of us may be suspended or even banned  from platforms by not having “right think”. Consider that.

Freedom of Thought:  This goes along with speech as there are countries, yes again western countries, that would ban not only speech, but thought as well. Thought being this medium, where I am able to write my thoughts about many subjects and in my country, unlike some others (e.g. England)  where the police are spying on people to try and enforce what they have categorized as hate. I sometimes think that this blog would be  banned in some countries although I’ve made a conscious attempt to not explicitly offend anyone. But hey, I can, and never will know whom I may offend. That trap has widened over the last few years and blogger, videographers, and other content providers have to be extremely careful nowadays.

Freedom of Assembly: If I want to have people in my home that think the same way I do, politically, socially  or religiously, I should be able to do that without government interference. If I want to hold a peaceful demonstration on the streets of my city, the same should apply. We should all be able to protest actions by our government, no matter where we live, that violates our conscience. This is also part of the Freedom of Association, which I didn’t make a separate category as it folds into this one. Political parties, religious affiliation, or anything else that we, as human beings decide that are important to us, should not be subject to government approval. As long as we’re not advocating violence, there should be no prohibition.

Freedom of Religion: I’m an atheist, and I think that religion is harmful to society. I would never advocate for the prohibition of religion. I prefer to use reason, attempting to convince people that religious belief  has done nothing to advance the human condition over the thousands of years of its existence. I still, however, believe that it is everyone’s right to believe in whatever gods they choose and to be able to worship as they want – as long as it doesn’t cause harm to another person. Yes, they should be able to lobby the government for legislation that they would consider favorable to their belief. We also need to be able to criticize those religions without government intervention. The right to worship does not mean that those same people have any immunity from any form of criticism.  When governments give “special protection” to certain beliefs, persecuting those that they find apostate or heretical,  then they also don’t agree with any of the above.

Equality: This is a tough one in that here in the U.S. legislation was passed 53 years ago, known as the Equal Rights Act, that forbade discrimination based on sex, color, ethnicity, religion, etc. It had to do with employment, housing, education (segregation), and other basic rights that should be afforded all citizens. Today, all of that time passed, we still argue on whether people are treated equally when they apply for college, or a home loan. This shouldn’t be as hard as it’s made out to be: denying entrance to a school  or a home loan based on anything other than being qualified should, and is, illegal. We still find instances of discrimination everywhere we look. this is really about opportunity, not outcome. Today, there are many voices that believe it’s about the later and not the former. That’s wrong in my opinion. We cannot force an outcome, but we can enforce the opportunity. Too many countries in the world today, yes even western countries, have few if any civil rights for their citizens that enforce equality.

All of these rights described above are a house of cards. Remove one, the house falls. They’re integral for a stable society.

Are these the only basic human rights? No, I just decided to point out a few that are integral to a civil society. In the 21st century it’s shameful that many cannot come out of the middle ages and realize that the best of societies do in fact have these basic rights that should be unalienable no matter where one lives. We can talk about other “rights”, that are not actually tights but maybe some of those things we can do to improve our individual societies, but until we all recognize the above, at a minimum, none of the rest will ever be realized.


8 thoughts on “What Are Basic Human Rights?

  1. What about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Seems like those might be a good place to start. And it could be argued that things like food, safe drinking water, and even basic medical care could fall under “life.” Who pays is relevant, but if these really are basic human rights, a civilized society will find a way to pay for them.


  2. I suppose the most basic human right is the “right” to attempt to survive and a further biological “right” would be to procreate and rear offspring to independence. Though that is no different from the “rights” of other entities on Earth.

    All other “rights” come from social constructs.

    There is no human right to be free. What does that even mean? Happiness? Maybe a full stomach once in a while.

    There is nothing about our being human beings that gives us any basic rights.

    And, who is doing the giving? Perhaps what the notion means is what should civilized human beings have to rely on that make their attempts to survive easier? And how do they get them?


    • When we talk about rights, duty, ought…etc, we are engaging in a normative process. There is no sense in which rights may be detected or verified in the sense of data. That is a descriptive endeavour. When we talk about rights we want to establish rules based on a framework dictated by values. Deciding where to place value is the business of ethics. You may place supreme value on survival, but consider the implications of that perspective.


  3. There is too much here to respond to it all. At this time, I think the US Government could do a better job with a health payment system, but it will not. We refuse to even acknowledge an environmental problem, much less try to fix it. It is not only who pays for health care, but who profits from it (and who pays the politicians). And how much they all profit. It is a shame that this country’s greatest enemies our own fellow citizens. Have we learned nothing in the past 200 years?


  4. Why should governments do with the money they collect from taxes? I think any society that has made some progress in terms of wealth creation and accumulation should at the very minimum guarantee access to basic education, healthcare among other bundles of rights. Public housing and so on.


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