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

Velensk
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Velensk »

What I was disagreeing with is the idea that lack of electricity means inability to control destiny which you seem to be using as a given.

Electricity is a form of power and like any other power it can be used to deny other people power but it is not the only form of power. In the example I gave, If I had an loyal army large enough to take over the world I could use it to prevent anyone else from having an army large enough to take over the world and thus 'take away their ability to control their destiny' in that sense. However I could not stop everyone from having any control of their destiny whatsoever. There would not be enough time to micromanage that many people to the point where none of them have any sort of power (and delegating the responsibility defeats the purpose). On a similar note, if you had electricity and I had none, but I had a world conquering army and you had none, you could deny me electricity but you could hardly take away my ability to control my destiny (including presumably the ability to forcefully seize your electricity).

What I believe you are actually saying is that a lack of electricity for a nation will cause the inability to compete on the global level which I actually agree with. I may be misinterpreting.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by doofus-01 »

Velensk wrote:What I believe you are actually saying is that a lack of electricity for a nation will cause the inability to compete on the global level which I actually agree with. I may be misinterpreting.
Right. Or a group of people within a nation.
bigkahuna wrote: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.
The same could be said for the hungry, the wet, the tired... This line of thinking means there are no human rights. (And yes, we are exploiting them if they have anything to exploit. But this is veering off topic.)

I don't think the concept of electricity as a human right means governments are required to give everyone a live 120/240 VAC line, whether they want one or not. It means it can't be withheld. If human rights include economic and political freedom (which is control of destiny, maybe I was unclear), electricity is certainly required. It wasn't always, but it is now.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Velensk »

Not entirely sure what you mean by economic freedom in this case but the phrase control of destiny must mean something slightly different to me than to you.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Crushmaster »

No. Is it a blessing (though, in a way, it can be a curse, like many things...)? Yes. Should we be thankful for it? Yes. Comfortable? Yes. But it's not really a...right.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Iris »

From my point of view, it is a human right because... ah well. I'm too lazy to explain so I'll quote one of our slaves content creators instead.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Kanapka »

I hope I'm not going off-topic.

This turned out to be quite a long post.

Short verison: I believe it's not a human right to have access to electricity, while it is a humanr right to be allowed to use electricity if availablem

Long version:

Hold on a second, what are 'human rights'? It looks like it's a very fuzzy problem, so some basics need to be stated or no conclusion can be made.
"Wikipedia on Rights wrote:Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory
Wikipedia on Human Rights wrote:Human rights are "rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.


A right is a rule that is set by a person or group of people. We can say that with each right there must come a punishment for breaking it, be it capital punisment for murder or your grandma frowning at you for not eating your soup properly.
There must be and organization that enforces the law, in particular someone needs to enforce human rights. So they need to know what is human law and what is not - if you want to check on electricity, go ask them, I'm sure they have a list somewhere.

While searching for the organization you will see that there is more than one of them. If human rights apply to every human, why isn't one organization enough? They have different lists of what they regard as human rights: African Charter on Human's and People's Rights is said not to state some rights, and some organizations put more emphasis on particular rights.


Ok, this is too big for me and I get tangled up in all the material about human rights. I'd be nice if someone with more knowledge (working or volunteering in a human rights organization,maybe?) said something about what human rights are.

Back to the basics, rights need to be stated and enforced to work. Human rights are what every person has to be granted. A right to electricity would be (in my opinion, and it seems doofus-01 meant something similar) a 'you are allowed to use electricity', and I believe that no country forbids you to use batteries, connect to some available electricity network or put together a generator, and if they did, it would be a problem of 'no property (of power generators) allowed' rather than 'no electricity allowed'.

However, I think that in this case the law was meant to be 'you should have (easy) access to electricity'. This is more compilcated, it isn't about you being allowed to do something, it's compelling an organization to do something for you - to spend money on creating and maintaing power source and an electricity network. This means that in has to either make that money or take it from someone. It can't make the money by selling power, because it would not be a right to have electricity then, as you would not have it if you weren't able to pay. They could run a company and use it's profits to provide power to people. But free market means that they need to make enough money to make a living and support power plants, while other CEOs are fine with making a living, so they'd go out of business. The alternative is taking money from someone, either as a tax (forced) or donations (free will). Taxing people means that some money will be taken from me, reducing my possibilites to excercise my right to eat pizza ('you may eat pizza') or right to live (I won't be able to buy a safe car or a better rope when I go mountaineering) or right to own (stuff I have is taken away). Donations mean it's actually a charity service rather than a right you have.

It appears to me that a 'you shall have access to electricity' is not possible to execute without going in conflict with other, previously established human rights.

'Previously established' would mean that some laws are in force now, and we're trying to add a new one. Why would we do that (remember the fella from Matrix Reloaded talking about how there is always a purpose?)? The first laws were set because the creators wanted to ensure more safety and a higher level of life to people in exchange for some freedom (like me not being free to kill you and take your land, crops and gold). There were means to defend yourself against violation of what is a human right now (in feudal Europe the peasants were defended by the land owner, and if they didn't like him they could call up some buddies and burn his castle) but since establishing human rights this is to be done for you. Each new right was trading some freedom for some security. So the question is not wether or not we should provide electricity, but if we are willing to give up the freedom that needs to be lost to do this.
[...] now, you are out of the loop without it [...]
I see it as 'you are allowed to use electricity'. Not having this right is a part of a more general lack of freedom - I can't imagine a country where you can use cars and phones and computers (mechanical machines) as long as they use no electricity.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by wesfreak »

I suppose it depends on the precise definition of a human right.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by bigkahuna »

wesfreak wrote:I suppose it depends on the precise definition of a human right.
Then you'd also have to define the meaning of life and why you deserve to have these rights. And of course everyone here seems to think that these questions are all opinion and everyone has their own meaning, so there would be no precise definition of a human right, which would mean this topic has no answer.

I say we stick with the Declaration of Independence.
Declaration of Independence wrote:We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.[/quote
Basically, all humans have the right to Life, (living) Liberty (freedom, as not in slavery or however you wish to define it), and the pursuit of Happiness (the ability to attempt to find Happiness). If a government restricts you from these rights, you have the right (though this right may too be denied :roll: ) to abolish this government.
Restricting of Rights:

A. Life. Killing you.
B. Liberty. Enslaving you.

C. Pursuit of Happiness. This is the crux of this entire argument and on which the entire argument hinges. If you can define how exactly one pursues happiness or this pursuit is denied, you've isolated the problem.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Jetrel »

Human Rights are basically a contrivance without any real basis; whether you're operating from a religious or an atheistic viewpoint, there really isn't any "justification" for it other than a sense that it's 'nice' for people to have them. Ethics might argue that access to them makes people get along better, but there are very plausible arguments to the contrary - so much so that they're codified in the classic statement that "ignorance is bliss"; that when supplied with what we consider "basic rights", people become angry and dissatisfied with how far a regular life falls from an ideal - or people have the means to cause damage they might not be able to in a much more authoritarian society.

So I don't think there are any "natural" human rights; that is, rights actually enforced by nature. Especially because, as I was reading in an article I can't currently find, many natural rights are contradictory. For example, the right to do whatever you want impinges on people's right to prevent you from doing things they don't want. Even within a single person, exercising a right to free action (such as doing something dangerous) comes at a cost of their right to safety.

What I consider the basis of human rights, is that - we as a society consider ourselves immoral if we've failed to provide someone who wants or needs something that is reasonably easy for us to provide as a society.


Ergo, it's wrong for someone in a first-world country to lack, say, vehicular transport - I don't mean they have a right to a license, I just mean they have a right to have some functional benefit available to them. For example, if they're not safe to drive, they have a right to reasonably-priced taxi and shipping service (which we have). Where we would violate this, would be someone living in an american situation where they 1] can't legally drive, and 2] don't have access to any for-pay vehicle service. So this is where stuff like the US postal service steps in - it ensures that people always have access to a for-pay postal system, even if they live in a fairly rural place.

So by that token, yeah, I think we as a society should give all of our citizens a reasonable means to get at electricity, water, heating, and internet access. Internet access in the future is increasingly going to mean "broadband-caliber cellular access", and I think we need to lean on the phone companies to make sure their contracts aren't nearly as usurious as they are at the moment.



Not the article I was looking for, but relevant:
http://www.economist.com/blogs/democrac ... andfreedom
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by wayfarer »

Well duh can't remember when I made a warm cozy camp fire in my flat. :annoyed:

I'd like to remark that even in Germany the winters can get quite cold.
If I would live in a forest I might have no problem to cut down some trees but those stupid communist authorities prohibit camp fires in flats for some stupid fire protection regulations and wood? Well the leaseholder doesn't take it to well If I lend some wood. :roll:

So I quess It is my [censored] Human Right not to freeze and to have at least some light in the colder days of the year.

If I could go an a rampage in the forest well we would have a deal but sadly I can't so you better give me some electricity for my shack or I'd like to try how firesafe your palace is. Basic socialism at work. :hmm:
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by ElvenKing »

Jetrel wrote:Human Rights are basically a contrivance without any real basis; whether you're operating from a religious or an atheistic viewpoint, there really isn't any "justification" for it other than a sense that it's 'nice' for people to have them. Ethics might argue that access to them makes people get along better, but there are very plausible arguments to the contrary - so much so that they're codified in the classic statement that "ignorance is bliss"; that when supplied with what we consider "basic rights", people become angry and dissatisfied with how far a regular life falls from an ideal - or people have the means to cause damage they might not be able to in a much more authoritarian society.
I pretty well agree with what you said about in the later parts in terms what a society should provide, but this part might bother me depending upon what you mean. From a logical point of view, anything denoting what "should" happen is a contrivance in that manner(as there has to be a basis which is taken as an axiom), so in this regard then notion of human rights is no different to any other denotation of morality. Thus, if you saying that this is a particular issue is limited to the human rights, then there is a problem(I also suspect that you won't really agree with it is as a method of arguing, as it makes all question of moral action "undefined" and not discussable).
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Sapient »

After reading what everyone had to say (especially thanks to sur.nhm for the helpful pointer to "social rights"), I have learned that the question as stated is too ambiguous because the modern meaning of the term "human rights" is itself a contradiction.

In the past, philosophers who used this phrase may have had in mind universal, moral rights that transcend time. In contemporary usage, however, "human rights" do include many things that could more accurately be described as goals rather than rights. :doh: So, by the modern definition, Pres. Obama was indeed correct.

Thanks everyone. :D

BTW, wayfarer's point about burining down the palace reminds me of the phrase "might makes right" :lol2:
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by wayfarer »

Well it was a reference to: "Peace to the cottages! War on the palaces!".
Some call it human rights other call it a necessity.
From a not so nice point view you can't detain a large group for long if you cut them off from the most basic privileges.
Especial if those are necessary for a living and are controlled by a smaller group.
And I call a working light and some kind of heating a imperative.

On the other side even if you don't pay for it the electricity gets produced no matter what.
You could turn on all your electrical devices it would make no difference it is a joke but not a funny one with have a plethora of goods which are produced no matter what but they are not used because they are "rare" I mean come on. :doh:
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by johndh »

It is the government's job to regulate freedoms, more or less. In order to preserve our freedom to live, they have to take away our freedom to kill. I don't believe that there are any fundamental rights that a person is entitled to just for being human, since humans really aren't special. You're a pretty cool ape, nothing more, nothing less, and you're not entitled to anything but what you earn for yourself. Anything else you get is a bonus. If I don't do things to harm others, it's because I want to make the world a better place, not because they're somehow entitled to not be hurt.

With that said, governments and societies exist to protect their people and provide for their well-being. If that is best served by providing electricity (as opposed to providing something else -- opportunity cost), then so be it. The Amish get by just fine without it, and that's entirely voluntary.

So, my answer to the original question is "no, because no such thing exists." If the question is "must electricity be provided to everyone because they deserve it?", then my answer is no, because they don't. However, is it the government's job to provide us electricity because that's what we're employing them to do? Meh. If the votes fall that way, sure. If not, then the people have decided they have other priorities.

I guess all this is to say, people's freedoms in a democracy are whatever they (collectively) make them.
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Re: Is electricity a "human right"?

Post by Sapient »

johndh wrote:I don't believe that there are any fundamental rights that a person is entitled to just for being human
Yeah, not only is it a misnomer, it's also a myth. Double whammy. I wonder how the human rights movement has gained so much clout in spite of that? I think they need to be renamed.
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