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Those Cheeky Scandinavians

January 6, 2010

Revisiting a fairly old story, Finland has declared that fast access to the Internet is now a human right.  So, just as you have the inalienable human right to free speech, bear arms, a fair trial, etc., the citizens of Finland now have the right to, yes, surf the web.

The only problem with this decree is, well, the problem with every other positive right.  It’s not an issue of whether or not a government ought to seek to provide something for every citizen under its legal jurisdiction.  I personally don’t have a dog in the “is this something the Finnish feds should be spending their money on?” fight.  The issue here is the problem of positive rights in general.  Where the Finnish and I expect most Americans differ is defining what exactly an inalienable right is–to us, rights are things that your government cannot take away from you, while to them, rights are things that the government must provide you.  And, in my view, they have it wrong.

What if your internet happens to be moving more slowly than the Constitution provides on a particular day?  Or, if you live in a rural area, something happens to your satellite dish and the Internets can’t quite reach you?  Does that mean that the federal gummint has abrogated your inalienable rights as a citizen?  It’d be a laughingstock of a day in court if somebody were rewarded some huge settlement because they couldn’t get a Facebook photo to upload as quickly as they’d like.

And if you have the right to the Internets, does that also mean you have the right to a computer?  Not that everybody didn’t already think this was a really dumb idea, but I thought it pertinent to bring it up given the proximity with which the health-care bill came to defining health insurance as a right.  This would have meant that a large percentage of the population was paying out of their own pockets for their human rights.  These are really bad ideas that are worth noting.

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