Is electricity a "human right"?

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Is electricity a human right?

Poll ended at February 9th, 2011, 9:56 am

Yes
18
38%
No
28
58%
Don't Know
2
4%
 
Total votes: 48

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Sapient
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Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Sapient »

I am a bit of a news junkie, so as you can imagine I was following the state visit by China's leader Hu Jintao to the United States.

One of the things that surprised me most was something President Obama said on the first day of his visit about electricity being a "human right." None of the other news sites or commentators seemed to pick up on it. If you are living in a socialist country that might not be a very remarkable statement, I guess, but here in the United States we do have to pay the power company every month if we expect to have our electricity, so it surprised me.

I have learned that the connotation of words has a great significance in Chinese politics. For Obama to agree with the re-definition of human rights (as advancement of prosperity) was thus a very big win for the prevailing CCP point of view. It essentially allows them to then hide behind a smokescreen whenever the human rights topic comes up: acknowledging that they need to make progress with human rights is now merely admission of a desire to bring greater prosperity to their people.

Back to the central question, though, if electricity is a human right, then does that mean that everyone prior to its invention was being deprived of their human rights? An absurd question, maybe, but it depends on your definition of human rights.

I did a little research and found one of our former presidents made an even more remarkable statement. According to FDR, the "freedom from want", i.e. prosperity, is one of the four basic human rights! And in Finland now apparently having a fast enough internet connection has been declared a human right.

So, dear forum goers, I submit to you: is electricity a human right? Discuss.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Max »

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_e ... _of_living

sounds like this one could cover electricity and other modern "mainline" stuff as well...
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by HomerJ »

In Germany you have to pay for your electricity, but the supply cannot be shut down even if you cannot afford it anymore or there are disagreements over the billing or something.
If you rely on social support money, electricity and heating will be paid for unless use extends the common values.


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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by atomicbomb »

IMO, electricity is human's right... in my country(Indonesia)electricity is expensive.Life needs electricity, without that,you can't do anything. I think it's better if government pay electricity for poor people.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Velensk »

I think that although it is advisable to create a set-up where electricity is generally available (though the specifics of that can get sticky) I think that saying that people are entitled to it is a poor idea.

Humans generate enough electricity of their own to live. More is extreamly useful but it is not required.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by doofus-01 »

I can't say that I've thought of electricity as a human right, but I guess it is. In 1559, it wasn't because no one really had it and it wasn't part of society. But now, you are out of the loop without it, and not in control of your own destiny in any way. If a slave is fed, dry, and warm, are his/her rights being violated? (Hyperbolic, but it seems to fit.)
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by bigkahuna »

I don't think it's a human right. Obviously it would be great if every human could have electricity. I just don't see how this could be a human right (that all people on earth who don't have electricity are being violated of their rights by... who?)
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by sur.nhm »

Max wrote:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_e ... _of_living

sounds like this one could cover electricity and other modern "mainline" stuff as well...
Not exactly (I know; I studied this at school). Basically, the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living is a social right. Social rights are rights that governments can choose not to provide; contrariwise, governments have no choice in regards to human rights; if they are democratic, they must preserve the human rights of all human beings in their territory, whether citizens or not.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by doofus-01 »

I'm still not really sure it is a human right, but this I can answer:
bigkahuna wrote:that all people on earth who don't have electricity are being violated of their rights by... who?)
The people who take their resources or use them as a pressure on labor resources, if there is nothing they can do about it. Huge disparities have consequences.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by ancestral »

doofus-01 wrote:I'm still not really sure it is a human right, but this I can answer
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Velensk »

I find it vaguely amusing that you believe lack of electricity denies you some control over your destiny that you might otherwise have. It is true but the basic concept is so meaningless as to almost not be worth mentioning.

I happen to lack an army of loyal troops in numerous enough quantities to conquer the world (provided of course by the circumstances of my birth). I feel like I've been denied my destiny. Or to use an example that would be more applicable to society in general rather than a single person, I feel that it should be a human right to live in a society where FTL teleportation is common, you truly cannot get anywhere at the speed vital to society if you cannot get across the globe with a simple voice command. Just think how much time we waste going anywhere and how much inefficiency is involved not to mention possible environmental concerns, risks of travel, and the need to hire thousands of people just to build infrastructure. Just think, every time you get get in a vehicle there is a small but noticeable chance that you will die or be severely injured. Considering how often you must get around that is practically handing off your future to fortune and hoping. Incidentally the installation and maintenance (not to mention cost of invention) for these teleporter systems should be paid for by someone else because we are all entitled to them.

Electricity is a tool. An extremely useful one but hardly the only one. Now admittedly the inability to acquire electricity is a sign that there are other problems out there. You do not need electricity to invent or build power generators and thus if no one is willing to take the time to build one then there is likely some sort of leadership/education/economic problem in the area (alternatively, maybe everyone in the area feels like they get along fine without it in which case who is going to argue with them?). On the receivers end, if electricity is not a luxury and they cannot afford it it is likely a sign that they cannot/will not work which may be a sign of a problem with the society or the individual. If electricity is a luxury item then at least in part the problem goes back to the idea that the more generators need to be build and are not for whatever reason. In any case however I do not believe that electricity should be considered a granted because if everyone is entitled to electricity then how can you possibly make it worthwhile to the people who make electricity to do so without making them highly dependent on some outside source (and unable to develop where that source is not willing/capable of supporting).

They do not even need to be denied this right by the people who live. To a certain extent, everyone has been deprived of the 'right' to a perfect society because their ancestors have never been able to create one. That is an extreme example but there are lesser degrees that become apparent. Nations and cultures have valued and praised different things and I think that is apparent in history that it has effected their development. Who is to say if these nations could not have reversed or changed their values they might not have become the more advanced? I like to assume that (for example) among the african tribes there were individuals and leaders who could have changed things but for whatever reason didn't. It seemed to me like the african tribes valued warriors, hunters, and farmers far more than they valued scholars and it came to haunt them many years later. Then we have the Chinese who seemed to have invented many things, forgotten them, and then reinvented them many multiple times and yet they were highly literate. Had they just thought to use their literature to preserve their technical knowledge and had leaders with the right ideas and a taste for power come by at the right time they could well have industrialized and developed firearms long before the west did.

It may not be satisfying to blame annonymonus people long dead for the current state of things but it's no less true than blaming the living (probably less useful though). I don't think that there's a lot of point in throwing stones until we do develop a 'perfect society'. Until then we should just keep working toward it (given human nature, likely in multiple directions at the same time) (which presumably would involve making sure that there is enough electricity to go around and a system to support both its maintenance and any needed growth).
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by bigkahuna »

Velensk wrote:[...]
Exactly what I meant to say but didn't have the time to. You raised some very valid points. I just partially don't agree with this one:
Velensk wrote:I don't think that there's a lot of point in throwing stones until we do develop a 'perfect society'. Until then we should just keep working toward it
Yes, we should work towards it, but I don't believe that a 'perfect society' will ever be developed. There are always that one, two thousand, or three million people who want to have it their own way. I suppose that electricity for everyone would be an enormous step towards that hypothetical goal, though.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Velensk »

I did say in multiple directions at once (implying that different people have different ideas of what a perfect society is and thus not everyone will ever be satisfied).

EDIT: The point I was actually trying to make though, was that we are all very much deprived of a enormous number of hypothetical improvements to our lives that our ancestors for whatever reason failed to make (some people/nations more than others) and that for some people electricity is part of that. That doesn't mean that they shouldn't attempt to improve things but it does mean that looking for scrape goats in the present is an oversimplification.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by doofus-01 »

Velensk wrote:I find it vaguely amusing that you believe lack of electricity denies you some control over your destiny that you might otherwise have. It is true but the basic concept is so meaningless as to almost not be worth mentioning.

I happen to lack an army of loyal troops in numerous enough quantities to conquer the world (provided of course by the circumstances of my birth). I feel like I've been denied my destiny.
It'll take more than condescension to convince me...

If the strong have electricity, and the strong deny it to the weak (preventing them control of their destiny), they are keeping the weak weak, and will exploit the weakness.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by bigkahuna »

doofus-01 wrote:If the strong have electricity, and the strong deny it to the weak (preventing them control of their destiny), they are keeping the weak weak, and will exploit the weakness.
The same could be said for the jobless, the homeless, the immigrants (illegal, denied, or otherwise). Just because we choose not to give something to someone else doesn't mean we're exploiting them.
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