“Human rights, human plights.”

Prof. Rob Buitenweg (Netherlands) queried why socio-economic rights are considered secondary to political rights—and answered that it’s a mindset of libertarianism. His talk was basically an attack on libertarianism, as morally equivalent to Satanism. He rejected the assertedly libertarian idea that freedom means freedom from interference, and nothing else, which he said leads to hostility toward socio-economic rights.
Buitenweg argued for “social justice” on the basis that the well-off are not the legitimate owners of their property, that ultimately all wealth has been produced by “force or manipulation,” and hence its owners can justly be shorn of it to help the poor.
This is rubbish. If you’re reading this, you’re likely in the highest percentiles of global wealth. Did you get there by ripping off the poor? More likely it was through a career that contributed to societal and human betterment, for which you were deservedly compensated. Such contributory effort—not “force and manipulation”—is in fact the source of most wealth in the world. Social “justice” is a faulty concept; the plight of a poor person may unjust or not, but in any case is unacceptable, and he should be helped not out of “justice” but simply humaneness.

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4 Responses to ““Human rights, human plights.””

  1. Sharon Donegan Says:

    I tentatively agree with Prof. Rob Buitenweg’s remarks and your comments were as expected. From reading your blog and your replies to other posters, you appear to be of the libertarian ilk that advocates freedom from interference in your financial matters and little love of a safety net for the populace.

    FSR COMMENT: That’s right. I’m just a selfish SOB who cares nothing about anyone else’s suffering. Sharon, I don’t question YOUR sincerity or compassion. Why do you, and so many people with similar viewpoints (like Buitenweg) feel it is necessary and appropriate to demonize the motivations of people who disagree with your policy approaches? I hold the views I hold because I believe they represent the best route to making life better for all people.

    [Sharon continues:] We have a planet with finite resources and everyone on it would like to survive and even flourish. I would advocate for more awareness of what a “few grabbing a lot” does to those who are less able or weaker. As a citizen of the world I want to know the consequences of my actions; every choice we make impacts others.

    FSR COMMENT: “A few grabbing a lot” is simply not the reality of economic life. Most wealth is not “grabbed” but EARNED — and earned deservedly by doing things that make life better for others, for which those others are willing to pay. That’s what improves people’s lives. My understanding this is one of the factors making my outlook positive and optimistic, in comparison with Lefties who are weighed down by the idea that the world is pervasively unjust.

    [Sharon continues:] I am more interested in learning how to preserve and share out the ‘pie’

    FSR COMMENT: And I’m more interested in EXPANDING the pie, so the poor can have more without anyone else having less.

    [Sharon continues:] and in showing others how to do the same than in gaining more for myself. This is not from altruism but from pragmatism. Wars are fought in part because people feel they don’t have enough and want what someone else has. The result of war for the many is much less; for the few, much more. This I would be informed to counter.

    And why did people yell from the floor at the convention? Why didn’t they wait until the speaker was finished? It seems the loudest and most obnoxious hijacked the process. I recognize this “O’Reilly” ploy now from the last 8 years of the present administration and look forward hopefully to a more responsible government.

    FSR COMMENT: Well, I think you’ve read too much into my statement. Yes, some people shouted out. But overwhelmingly the conference was a model of civility and listening.

    [Sharon continues:] Further, I suspect your “rational optimism” might as well be called “simple opportunism” but I would sincerely welcome your response to the contrary.

    FSR COMMENT: There you go again.

    [Sharon:] Have enjoyed and appreciated several of the responders on your blog.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Just as systemic racism – sometimes called institutional racism – is diffricult to get across, I see the inability to understand the privilege of wealth as being based on force and manipulation.

    Often the wealthy person is not aware of how uneven the playing field is and how others have done the forcing and manipulation which set the stage. A good strategist doesn’t necessarily do the dirty work – but definitely reaps its rewards.

    By dropping the defensiveness, one can see this more easily. To me, the first hint of my own defensiveness is getting pissed off. VJ Plummer

  3. Sharon Donegan Says:

    Anonymous, I agree. The effective money strategist is often times distanced or disconnected from the results of his/her actions.

    And FSR, I believe you are sincere. However, your own words reveal the emphasis you put on earning much and I didn’t see a corresponding concern for those who are less able to compete or compete at all. How are those who cannot compete – or who do so imperfectly – to “pay” for the largesse you are willing to impart?

    FSR COMMENT: To quote myself, in my original post: “the plight of a poor person may unjust or not, but in any case is unacceptable, and he should be helped not out of “justice” but simply humaneness.”

    [Sharon continues:] My understanding of economics is that if one part of the model or formula is finite, the other factors are necessarily eventually limited as well. Would you give me some instances or a plan where the poor could have more without anyone else having less?

    FSR COMMENT: Yes: America!
    America’s “poor” have more — way, way more — than even average people in past times and in many other countries today — and the non-poor have more too. The point is that the kind of free economy we have does not oppress the poor, on the contrary, it creates the resources society uses to give them better lives while allowing the non-poor to thrive as well.

    [Sharon continues:] I have a few ideas for this up to a point but think beyond that, there would be no gains for the poor without sharing – compelled or otherwise – by the rich.

    FSR COMMENT: By the way, it’s not exactly as though the rich don’t share. Who do you think pays the bulk of the taxes? If you think the rich get away free because of loopholes– well, that just ain’t so. The top 5% of taxpayers (with 30% of the income) pay over HALF of all personal income taxes. The top 1% pay over 30%.

    [Sharon continues:] Earlier in the posts, when some bloggers were talking about ethics, or what being positive meant, or a world view that considered all people and cultures, you were responding with talk about money. While we each seem to develop different interpretations of words depending on who we are, a few times it was as though you were coming from an entirely different direction. I have not read your book and am responding solely to what you have written in this blog so perhaps have missed some of your larger picture?

    FSR COMMENT: Well, it’s hard to resist the temptation to say, “you should read the book”! But, yes, money– isn’t that we we are ultimately talking about? Isn’t that what Buitenweg was talking about? Where it comes from, and what we do with it? As Margaret Thatcher said, “No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good intentions. He had money as well.”

  4. Drona K Says:

    I believe that there are two points of argument here. Some of us favor “freedom” over “equality” while the others favor “equality” over “freedom.” The two cannot coexist in their pure forms. Freedom can result in some sense of equality as well as extreme inequality without morals. Equality necessarily eliminates freedom as equality cannot persist without limiting individual freedom by “redistribution” efforts which must be “forced.” Freedom is necessary to thrive, although absolute freedom without morality (anarchy) leads to destruction of society. Equality is not necessary for survival. In fact, enforced or forced equality leads to destruction of free will, resourcefulness, and resourcefulness as well.

    The wealthy may have attained this position through many paths. These paths may be moral or immoral. However, the exacting of revenge against the wealthy with the graduated tax scale is certainly immoral. It is a Robin-Hoodesque technique.

    Charity is one of the keys to moral freedom. The poor should not be helped by laws that force some to give up their earned wealth, but rather by charity and certainly by education…”Give a man a fish and he eats today, teach a man to fish and he eats every day!”

    Money, resources, knowledge, and influence are some of the things that are sought after by those who seek freedom and are stolen from some to give to others by those who seek equality.

    Freedom with morals can lead to the ultimate and most ethical societal form: meritocracy.

    Equality leads to the utopian nightmare – a society where there is no incentive and therefore stagnation.

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