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question of the day: Is Internet access a human right?

old modem

Does anyone think people are not entitled to access to information, or that access to the Internet is not increasingly a necessary component for participating in the larger culture? British lawyer Rupert Myers doesn’t. From The Telegraph:

Internet access is not a ‘human right’ – for perverts or anyone else

A man convicted of secretly filming 14-year old girl in the shower succeeded today in overturning the sexual offences prevention order which had banned him from (among other things) accessing the internet. Michael Jackson persuaded Mr Justice Collins and Judge Nicholas Cooke QC, sitting at London’s Criminal Appeal Court that it would be “unreasonable nowadays to ban anyone from accessing the internet in their home”. In granting the appeal, senior judges have effectively recognised access to the internet as a right undeniable even to sex offender.

To state the obvious, access to the internet is not a human right. Some 11 per cent of the UK population have never used the internet. Denial of the right to shop at Ocado, comment on Telegraph Blogs or snoop on your Facebook friends is hardly draconian.

If Myers had just confined himself to the sex offender, he might have been okay. But then he’s gotta go bringing the rest of humanity into it… and with a blindingly idiotic argument. Perhaps Internet access should not be considered a human right, but if not, he does not make the case. His primary defenses of the notion are 1) Bad people can do bad things with it and 2) Some people don’t take advantage of it. Both of which are ridiculous reasons to deny the right-ness of anything. It’s hard to imagine, say, any American (and probably lots of non-Americans) denying that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are fundamental human rights, yet America regularly denies wrongdoers their liberty and sometimes their lives as punishment, and the U.S. has made it a mission in recent decades to make the pursuit of happiness much more difficult than it once was; these do not negate the notion of what makes a right and what doesn’t. In the second case, Myers fails to recognize that at least some of those who don’t use the Internet may want to but don’t know how or don’t have the financial resources to be online regularly.

I’ll let Myers’ fatuous presumption that the Net offers nothing more than shopping, snooping, and — horror of horrors! — sharing one’s opinion stand on its own.

I do believe, as you may have guessed, that Internet access should be considered a human right, just as access to a solid education and decent health care should also be considered such, and not just privileges afforded to the lucky or wealthy. How to extend these rights to everyone is a subject for another debate. But deciding that they are rights and not privileges would be a necessary first step before that debate could even happen.

What do you think? Is Internet access a human right? If so, why? If not, why not?

Photo from Dial-a-Grue.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)


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  • http://twitter.com/GrubStLodger Adam Stevenson

    I do not think that internet is a human right.

    Human Rights are the notion of basic conditions that must be met before a person can begin creating a meaningful and interesting life, I think it’s pretty clear that the internet is not one of these basic conditions.

    To equate the internet with education or health seems absurd to me. Out of the three things, a person could live and thrive without the internet far more easily than the other two. 

    That said, the internet can be a medium through which some of these basic conditions can be built on/expressed/enacted. I would not say it was privilege, it would say it is a common and useful tool. Although a tool that is often used frivolously and for no great purpose.

  • RogerBW

    Considering that increasing amounts of access to government can only be done over the net – and considering how much extra is charged to pay many bills any other way – I’d say that it would now be unreasonable to deny anyone access. Just as it would be unreasonable to cut off their water or electricity. That doesn’t mean they can get it without paying…

  • FormerlyKnownAsBill

    from U.N.’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”:

    Article 27.

        (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

    not that the U.N. is the authority on human rights, but not a bad place to start i think. so, based on article 27 here, i think it would be difficult to argue that denying internet access to someone doesn’t infringe on their right to “participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” now, it’s maybe not the most inalienable of human rights.

     

  • bitchen_frizzy

    Myers and the prosecution made the wrong argument, and let the defense wrap itself in the flag.

    Even if internet access is a human right, the state has the authority to deny human rights to convicted criminals. That could include internet access, if denying internet access served the public interest.

  • David N-T

    If it can be taken away, it’s not a right.

  • bitchen_frizzy

    Right to liberty, freedom of association, freedom to travel, etc. etc…. all taken away when a criminal is sentenced to prison.

    Right to life, even, in the case of execution.

    Precedent for the state’s authority to deprive wrongdoers of rights – imprisonment – is as old as civilization.

  • http://twitter.com/RothAnim Jonathan Roth

    I wonder if there isn’t a grander point about the right of access to technological infrastructure. 

    We might not “need” the internet, but we also don’t “need” electricity, plumbing, professional healthcare services, roads or phones. We consider them all vital the the functioning of a modern society though, and society shapes itself to fit that access; i.e. cheap energy for heating allowing more residences in cold winter environments, which can make eliminating access to that energy fatal. 

    The internet has allowed wider access to public and commercial services than ever before, and allowed faster dissemination of knowledge. In doing so, it has also eliminated less efficient redundancies. We are quickly reaching the point where lack of internet access will consign someone to second-class status, just as surely as cutting off power to their home. We should consider it a positive right as with any technological infrastructure, and allow as much access as possible to all, and we should be careful in how we curtail it. 

  • dwa4

    Can the question of how to extend these rights to everyone really be separated from what you are going to consider a human right?

  • Danielm80

    I think an argument can be made that the Internet isn’t a fundamental right, in the same way that people who are against gay marriage have claimed that marriage isn’t a fundamental right. But right now, the Internet is where a lot of people get their information about the world. If you cut off someone’s access to the Web, they really do miss out on a lot of what’s happening outside their door. And if people can’t post on the Web, you’re cutting off their freedom of expression and, in some cases, freedom of the press. For a lot of us, the Internet is the way we communicate now.

    In the gay marriage example, if you take marriage away, you’re taking away something that’s fundamental to many of our lives. It’s a normal part of life now to collaborate with our co-workers on the Internet and search for our polling place on the Internet and tell stupid jokes to our friends on the Internet and play “Angry Birds” on the Internet when we’re bored. The Internet allows us to be normal and boring, just like everybody else. That is, it allows us to be equal. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but I do think it’s a little dehumanizing if you can’t live the same, ordinary life as your neighbors. If we believe in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” then we have give everybody an opportunity to work for those things. At the moment, the Internet is an important tool for finding those things. Of course, in twenty years, it will be replaced by something else, and we can all start arguing about that.

  • Bassygalore

    Having internet access itself is *not* a human right. If you want to encompass it into the basic right of ‘pursuit of happiness’, go right ahead. The fact of the matter is that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness until you trample on  someone else’s same basic rights – once you do something that crosses that line, you lose *your* rights.  Period. That’s the penalty.

    This guy shouldn’t be able to access the internet at his own home and it’s not an unreasonable punishment. Myers’ statement is poorly worded, that’s all. Or maybe it was intentionally worded in such a way that brings in a lot of traffic and comments (not sure how journalists get paid for their work over the internet).

  • MisterAntrobus

     Exactly. Most representative forms of government are built on the model of a social contract whereby a government is bound to secure and guarantee the rights of its citizens so long as citizens do not abuse those rights. If the contract is breached by a citizen, s/he forfeits some or all of those rights. There are, of course, rights that protect even those who have violated the law, including safeguards against “cruel and unusual” punishment – but removing Internet access hardly constitutes either.

  • David N-T

    See, I think internet access isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. And while I’m aware that the state does abbrogate itself such authority, I think that it’s mostly illegitimate. And I would argue that if the state were stripped of its authority to deprive “wrongdoers” of rights, it would actually be the beginning of civilization. Right now, I see mostly barbarity and greed cloaking itself in garbs of self-righteous morality and biblical retribution.

    History is also rich in cases of states infringing on people’s rights, so I can’t agree with the idea that depriving someone of rights is ok simply because the state is the one doing it.

  • David N-T

    The problem with this line of reasoning is that there never has been a social contract, it’s a fictitious creation. The bulk of the population is merely put in a situation where they can either obey laws to which they never gave their assent (i.e., the basis of any meaningful contract) or suffer the consequences. Problem is that the law isn’t neutral, it reflects the interests that create it: for instance, it’s perfectly legal to release greenhouse gases and toxins in industrial quantities, to create mortgage-backed securities, etc. despite their consequences, but smoking marijuana is illegal.

    I have a rather different view: certain things are “rights” only because people fought and struggled for them. Whatever comes out is an uneasy truce forged by a compromise between popular demands and what elites are willing to concede.

  • bitchen_frizzy

    It would be the beginning of anarchy.

    If you’re an anarchist, then I am familiar with the argument, but I don’t agree with it.

    If you’re not an anarchist, then I don’t understand your argument at all. How else can the state address criminal wrongdoing, except by removing rights and privileges? And yes, I’m not being careful with my semantics when I speak of “removing rights”. Technically, an inalienable right cannot be removed, only infringed or abrogated.

  • MisterAntrobus

    The whole purpose of representative government is that we give our consent to those whom we trust to advocate our interests. The rules by which we participate in that system are spelled out by the Constitution (at least in the US), so that is our social contract in a very real sense. That’s not a fiction. If people don’t participate in that system, then they’re powerless to affect the law, but that’s their choice. Has there ever been a national government in history in which every single citizen’s assent is necessary to adopt a law?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I imagine David considers himself a libertarian, but I agree with you. He’s gone tot hat far edge of libertarianism that borders anarchy, well beyond a workable system of governance. It’s a form of libertarianism that seems to want a government for no other reason than to deflect the label of “anarchist”. It’s certainly so toothless a government as to be pointless.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Shouldn’t we first define what a right is?

    At least, we might try this: are we talking about a right as in “something which should not be impeded under any circumstances”? Or “something which should not be impeded without due process of law”? Internet access might fall under the latter, but very little falls under the former in any way but the most idealized. The reason for that is that once ou define something that everyone should get no matter what, then a) your society becomes obligated to find a way to provide it, no matter what; and b) your society is left with only limited means of resolving conflicts.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I’m also seeing this repeated by several people: the internet is how a lot of people get information.

    I’ve often joked, usually with my students, that I can’t remember a world without the internet. “Why did I do if I wanted to know something?” I ask. The answer: first, I decided how important it was to know. Then, I looked it up in a book. Failing that, I asked around until I found someone else who knew. Basically, I used the same means everyone else has used for a very very long time.

    First world problems, people.

  • Bassygalore

    Exactly. Thank you. The internet as information source  is an infant compared to books or gosh, speaking to another human being that may have knowledge of said subject. If the internet were to disappear, we’d still have books, phones and televisions, just as we did before the 90′s. Besides, you can’t trust half the junk you read on the internet which makes it an extremely unreliable source of information any way.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    there never has been a social contract, it’s a fictitious creation.

    Yeah, no. The “social contract” is no more fictitious than any other contract. In fact, it’s significantly less so. The scribbling of arcane symbols representing human vocalizations representing abstract ideas does not imbue a contract with the force of nature. Further, the entire concept of the importance of “assent” is itself as aspect of the social contract. Everyone agrees that we have to agree, but did everyone agree to agreeing that everyone has to agree? Of course not. But we do so, because doing so is, for humans, a survival trait. If anything, the social contract is the only “real” contract, because our lives depend upon it daily.

    ETA: also…

    smoking marijuana is illegal.

    …your hobby horses are showing.

  • David N-T

    Despite the “We, the people”, the constitution was drafted by economic elites and the privileged. It was not ratified via referendum, it was actually passed through some very undemocratic methods. Charles Beard actually has a pretty good book on that called “An Economic Interpretation of the United States Constitution”. And I have a different interpretation of representative government: that of the people who originally proposed the idea of representative government as a rampart to protect wealth and privilege against the rabble who might have different ideas about distribution of life’s blessing. In fact, John Jay, one of the founding fathers, echoed that sentiment when he said that “those who own the country ought to govern it.” James Madison’s understanding of government was also to protect the opulent few from the restless many.

    I also disagree with the idea that those who don’t participate in the system (which system, the electoral system? The constitutional system?) are powerless to affect the law. For instance, racial segregation was defeated and civil rights enacted through direct actions that caused serious disruptions.

    And last but not least, yes, there are historical examples of laws being voted on by referendum.

  • David N-T

    Just because you and I disagree fundamentally with each other doesn’t mean that you get to define my position, then cut that strawman down with a heavy helping of ridicule along the way.

  • David N-T

    Did that ETA make you feel clever?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Sorry, I wasn’t trying to define your position so much as describe it. What you’ve espoused is a flavor of libertarianism I’ve encountered before, one which I do, frankly, find a little bit ridiculous. If you don’t consider yourself libertarian, then what you’re arguing doesn’t follow any political philosophy I’m familiar with, though I am not a political scientist. I’m curious what you consider yourself.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I think it’s telling.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    Sure they can! No one seems to disagree that basic freedom is a human right, yet not everyone has it. Does that mean that we shouldn’t think of freedom as something every human is entitled to merely by being alive?

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    The question of whether or not the specific criminal punishment mentioned in the linked article is justified is an entirely separate matter from the question at hand. (I happen to think it is reasonable.)

    Myers’ statement is poorly worded, that’s all.

    What he said is way too enormous to be dismissed like this.

  • http://www.flickfilosopher.com/ MaryAnn Johanson

    You can’t trust some of the junk you read in books, either.

    But for the sake of argument, okay, Internet access isn’t a human right. Is access to books, phones, and television a human right? Is literacy a human right? If so, where do we draw a line between which method of being informed is a human right and which isn’t?

  • Bassy Galore

    “You can’t trust some of the junk you read in books, either.” – Very true. Though I would argue that it is much easier and faster to disseminate misinformation via the internet versus a book.  For better or for worse, anyone with internet access can say anything they want. It takes time to get a physical book published and hopefully there’s been some sort of fact checking and editing done before it gets put out there. And sure, even if all of those things happen, the information in a book can still be wrong. That said, I’m more inclined to believe what I read in a book though because I have faith that whoever wrote it, did some research on the subject at hand and is presenting it to the reader in the most accurate way possible – their name and reputation may be at stake.  Stuff I read on the Internet…not so much. You really have to take it with a grain of salt.
    ~~~~~~~~~
    From the standpoint of a right being something that refers to essential or basic human needs, whereby humans need reliable information in order to make decisions which could affect their ability to meet their needs for food and shelter, then yes, every single person is entitled to have access to information. To Dr. Rocketscience’s point though,  I think that a person’s right, with regard to phones, television and the Internet, falls under “something which should not be impeded without due process of law”.  For example, if you use the telephone to prank call 911 – you may lose your right to access a phone. Realistically, that’s difficult to enforce,  just as it is hard to enforce the removal of access to the Internet, but it’s perfectly within the rights of the law to take it away. 

    After re-reading the article, I feel more certain that the title is there to spark a discussion among readers, which it did. 

  • Dwa

    Freedom is a fundamental condition. It seems most often defined as what is not there..an absence of control, an exemption from restrictions or, as Rocket notes, something that is not impeded under any circumstances or without due process. This condition can be extended to people by laying out a set of laws saying we will not employ those restrictions , will enforce them, and will fight and die to have a state without those restrictions. It is a condition that can be achieved without using resources. It may take resources to enforce it but freedom itself is a condition that does not require resources to produce.

    The Internet and access to it is not something that came into being by avoiding activities that impacted someone’s condition. It and access to it, is, fundamentally, a product of ingenuity, creativity, labor, intelligence and resources, human and physical, are not there, it is not something that can be achieved.

    I don’t have too much problem saying that the Internet and it’s access is not a human right. It is much more difficult with something such as healthcare. As profound, desirable and just as it is to say that every human being has a right to healthcare, the fundamental nature of it calls it into question. Healthcare, at it’s fundamental level, is a product, not in a capitalist context, but in a labor sense.

    It is a product of a person’s long and hard labor…72-120 straight hours on call labor, sleep deprived labor, loss of the pursuit of happiness labor, labor to the detriment of your family labor. I have trouble saying that one person has a right, at a fundamental level, to that other person’s labor.

    Healthcare is not something that is impeded or impeded without due process. It is something that is produced. If you don’t have the resources….monetary, human or physical…to foster it’s production, you cannot achieve it and extend it to people…and it cannot be a human right.

    Our physical ability to achieve and extend that right, while not impinging on the rights of the producers in delivering it, therefore, has to be a consideration in what you are declaring a fundamental human right.

  • http://bluejaysway.wordpress.com/ Bluejay

    Re: reliability of books vs reliability of the Internet: I really don’t think this dichotomy is as clear as it seems. Plenty of books present shoddy claims (Chariots of the Gods, The Bell Curve), intentional deceptions (James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea, Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine), and propaganda (books by any number of political ideologues). Risk to name and reputation hasn’t prevented book authors from lying. On the other side, people who publish mainly online can have solid reputations based on well-researched and fact-based work (see: Nate Silver, or any number of blogging scientists such as Phil Plait). Books and the Internet are both just means by which reliable and dubious people can spread their information. The medium is no guarantee of reliability; you always have to look at the record and reputation of the person doing the writing.

  • dwa

    that should have been…”If they are not there, it is not something that can be achieved

  • http://www.newbspeak.com Newbs

    I think I’d argue that access to information is a human right… but not necessarily the internet as a means to access that information. That said, free internet for everyone everywhere!

  • LaSargenta

    I’ve got to give this idea of rights (in general) more thought; however, certainly right now in NYC, there’s a lot of things that are basic to being in our world that require internet access.

    Like, I’ve been doing “rapid assessment” building inspections in the hurricane damaged areas. There are reps from insurance companies, FEMA, NY’s OEM, Building Department (the one’s I’m assisting) etc., etc. But, unless you are lucky enough to be present when an official or knowledgable person is around, the way you are expected to file claims or contact offices of various sorts is through forms on websites which I find pretty amazing considering the circumstances. Landline phones are not working, up until the last day there’s been real problems getting fuel for cars (and there is still odd-even gas rationing), there is little very spotty service for cell phones out there, and these barrier island communities that were hit so hard are long and the stations with assistance are spread out the long way and there isn’t the same kind of assistance at each station.

    Now, for me, I have spent enough time in off-grid life (and I even enjoy it) that this is not a big deal. I also have skills as well for being safe while off-grid in an area that has dangers from a formerly on-grid world (sewage leaks, downed electrical lines, etc…dangers that we don’t think about the same way when we are in the backwoods). This includes a mindset that says to itself “oh, no gas? right…which way do I point my feet” without a second thought except perhaps stopping to take food/water with me. HOWEVER, that being said, I am very aware that I have skills that are getting rarer and rarer and, in fact, seem to be more and more the province of specialists…of “outdoor enthusiasts” or “re-enactors”. I’m neither, at least, I don’t look at myself that way. So, I’m watching people (and trying to help out in my little way) deal with this. In this case, it is a large group of people who are all dealing with it at the same time, which makes it less socially and politically isolating; but the reality is that for much participation — at least on the initial contact level — for a lot of our civic society, we need to have internet access for all.

    Edited to Add: This dependence on something so fragile reduces our resilience as a whole. We seem to be heading as a world society to relying more and more on things that are more fragile with each generation of technology. [Total tangent...there are people working on measuring the concept Resilience. Take a look at some of Priscilla Nelson's work. "Holistic" doesn't even begin to cover it. http://www.nsf.gov/about/congress/107/ppn_bio.jsp http://cedb.asce.org/cgi/WWWdisplay.cgi?289478 http://www.resilientus.org/library/CRSI_Final_Report-1_1314792521.pdf ]

  • NorthernStar

    Yes, I would agree that access to the social, intellectual and educational aspects of the internet a human right.

    But the question then is, what human rights can be forfeited when you violate another person’s, and which cannot?  

    Internet curtailment, for a limited “sentence”, does not seem unreasonable. 

  • LaSargenta

    If exercise of a right requires access to technology (that presumably didn’t exist at one point and might not in the future), does that mean that rights are dependent on the technology? But that would mean that the right has therefore changed. Is a right like this actually “inalienable”? If we turn off the power grid we have alienated it IF it is dependent on technology.

    Regarding the Meyrs’ editorial, I would have agreed with him if he had just stuck to the idea of punishment and curtailment of the convicted person’s access. Using the fact that others don’t have access (which could be for a number of reason, including personal choice) as justification is shoddy and incorrect. If I had turned that in for a high school english expository & persuasion piece, I’d have gotten red marks all over that paper.

  • Bassygalore

    I absolutely agree that information in books can be intentionally misleading and/or just flat out wrong. They are written by people, with their own perspectives and agenda, after all…

    And the Internet is also chock full of reliable information, so I agree, the medium is no guarantee of reliability. For me, personally, I am more skeptical of the reliability of things I read on the Internet *because* anyone can post anything and the vast quantities of information I can obtain within a manner of seconds means that I’m more likely to find a greater amount of misinformation and propaganda available to sift through (add to that the fact that I have been called out numerous times as having bad information - information obtained from the Internet).

    Anyway, I concede that you are correct that one must look at the record and reputation of the writer. It’s not always easy, but it’s what one must do.  :)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Re: information accuracy, print versus internet.
    Wikipedia, that pit of unreliable info on the internet, contains just over 3 errors per article,  making it worse than the Encyclopedia Brittanica by a horrifying 1 error per 5 articles.

    https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ie=UTF-8&ion=1#hl=en&tbo=d&sclient=psy-ab&q=wikipedia%20encyclopedia%20britannica%20accuracy&oq=&gs_l=&pbx=1&fp=40df12c8709948ff&bpcl=38625945&ion=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.&biw=1102&bih=679

    I just find that fascinating.

  • Bassygalore

    From my perspective I see it as someone trying to intentionally word his thoughts in such a way as to illicit a discussion among his readers.

    There are several aspects of this medium – exchange of ideas/information, exchange of commerce and socialization. All valid and important uses of the Internet. Myers referred to the Internet as a place to shop and socialize, not even addressing the informational aspect and I think he did that intentionally - obviously giving him the benefit of the doubt here. Besides, this article is this one person’s point of view and whether this article reflects the full extent of his thoughts on the subject, who knows.

    If my assessment is incorrect and this article does represent the full extent of his thoughts, well then so be it. He is responsible for reaching his own conclusion about his thoughts on the matter and no one can *make* him think anything different. His article raised a good point of discussion though, which you shared here.

    One other thought – in his closing statement, he refers to the Internet as ‘a mere luxury’ and from a certain perspect, it is. It is a first world problem. Humans can absolutely survive without the Internet and a lot of people in this day and age do – either out of choice or because it’s just not available (third world countries, for example). We have become increasingly reliant on it, but we wouldn’t lose access to all information, cease to be productive, stop communicating with one another or go extinct if it no longer existed.

  • Bassygalore

    Correction (fourth paragraph, first sentence) – that should be perspective, not perspect.

  • David N-T

    Actually, it isn’t: you know, one can talk about drug legalization without having recreational drug use as a hobby horse, which I don’t. What is telling is that you would choose to go about it that way.

  • MisterAntrobus

    I’m aware of Charles Beard and the economic factors behind both the American Revolution and the Constitution. In fact, I have a degree in Economics. I’m also aware that the Constitution as originally constructed basically only offered white male landowners the opportunity to vote. Lucky for us that they also built in a mechanism to amend the Constitution, so thanks to the progress of time, those restrictions no longer apply, and the American electorate encompasses arguably the largest and most diverse portion of the population possible (within practical limitations).

    Yes, social movements can materially affect the law, and in the case of the civil rights movement, in which a large group of people was either actively or effectively disenfranchised, it was the most effective way of doing so. However, it was not the people directly who ultimately changed the law; it was the elected representatives whose constituents (or whose conscience) had been swayed by the movement to demand the right thing. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, not Martin Luther King. So our system of representative government worked, eventually – just as MLK hoped it would do, as a matter of fact.

    With respect to referendums, yes they exist for select laws, but that approach isn’t scalable. We couldn’t have a government on a national or even a state level that’s run entirely by referendum. The closest we’ve come to that recently is the state of California, which is in a nightmarish fiscal crisis in part because of too much direct democracy.

    Anyway, we’ve strayed pretty far from the topic here. I think we’re in agreement that Internet access isn’t a right – we just seem to differ fundamentally on the legitimacy of representative democracy, which is a much larger can of worms. I personally think that it’s the best option we’ve got, despite its flaws, and I don’t see how removing the power of the government to enforce the law would lead to the “beginning of civilization.” But maybe we’ll just have to agree to disagree about that, since I don’t think either of us is going to budge the other’s fundamental ethos of what constitutes good government. Anyway, it’s a good conversation. :-)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The hobby horse is drug legalization, which is a common thread among libertarians of all stripes. No, the position is not exclusive to libertarians, but it is a hallmark to that philosophy in particular. And almost no one else frames drug legalization as an issue of “rights”. That you chose that particular issue to make your argument is, in fact, quite telling of your overall position.

    Look, man, if it walks like a duck, it may turn out to be a goose, but “duck” was still the most likely identification. What you think my pointing it out is telling of me, I don’t know, other than perhaps you think I’m a jerk for pointing it out. Which, y’know, I suppose I can live with.Meanwhile, you’re focused on what was really just a sidebar. My argument with you was with your assertion that the social contract is “fictitious”. You’re not required to respond to that, of course, but why you’ve got your undies in a bind over the pot thing is beyond me.

  • Tonio Kruger

    All this argument about rights to a medium that did not exist until the 1980s and yet not one mention of one’s right to defend one’s self. Interesting.

    Granted, I would not want to live in a society in which the government felt free to deprive me of internet access without due process of law any more than I would to live in a society which derived me of electricity without due process.

    But if I had to, I can survive in the wild without either electricity or the Internet than I could without some means of defending myself. And I suspect that many of those people who tell themselves something different are indulging in some form of vanity politics.

    Then again, people often tend to take more offense at the taking away of a privilege than at the taking away of a right…