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WiFi and Other Inalienable Human Rights

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Maslow_plus_wifiWhen you think about basic human rights, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The right to life? The right to liberty? The right to WiFi?

If that last one wasn’t on your list it may be a sign that you’re old. As Maryland governor Martin O’Malley recently told CNN, young people today believe that “WiFi is a human right.” O’Malley apparently agrees, adding that, “There is an opportunity there for us as a nation to embrace that new perspective.”

While I’ll concede that WiFi may be a basic human need (it’s certainly on the list of my own hierarchy of needs), it’s hard to see why it would be a human right. A human right is generally considered a right that is inalienable and fundamental and to which a person is inherently entitled simply because they are a human being. Are we really entitled to WiFi simply because we’re human?

While it’s easy to mock O’Malley’s claim, it does raise the question of just what exactly does qualify as a human right.

In a world where few people can agree on anything, it’s not surprising that there is no clear consensus on what constitutes a human right. About the closest the world has ever come to unanimity on the issue is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Below I’ve individually broken out each of the rights listed by the UN as fundamental to all humanity. Before looking at the list, though, take a guess at how many of rights you expect to see on the list.

According to the UDHR, all humans have the right,

  1. To life.
  2. To liberty.
  3. To security of person.
  4. To be free from slavery.
  5. To be free from involuntary servitude.
  6. To be free from torture.
  7. To be free from cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
  8. To recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
  9. To equal protection of the law.
  10. To an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
  11. To not be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.
  12. To a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.
  13. To be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which one has had all the guarantees necessary for one’s defense.
  14. To be free from arbitrary interference with one’s privacy, family, home, or correspondence.
  15. To be free from attacks upon one’s honor and reputation.
  16. To the protection of the law against such interference or attacks upon’s one’s privacy, honor, or reputation.
  17. To freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  18. To leave any country, including one’s own.
  19. To return to one’s country.
  20. To seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  21. To a nationality.
  22. To change one’s nationality.
  23. To marry
  24. To found a family.
  25. To free and full consent in choosing one’s spouse.
  26. To own property alone as well as in association with others.
  27. To be free from being arbitrarily deprived of one’s property.
  28. To freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.
  29. To change one’s religion or belief.
  30. To manifest, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, one’s religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
  31. To freedom of opinion and expression.
  32. To seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media.
  33. To freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  34. To be free of compulsion to belong to an association.
  35. To take part in the government of one’s country.
  36. To equal access of public services in one’s country.
  37. To a secure society.
  38. To work.
  39. To free choice of employment.
  40. To just and favorable conditions of work.
  41. To protection against unemployment.
  42. To equal pay for equal work.
  43. To just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and one’s family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  44. To form and to join trade unions for the protection of one’s interests.
  45. To rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
  46. To a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of one’s family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care, and necessary social services.
  47. To security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond one’s control.
  48. To free elementary education.
  49. To equal access of higher education based on merit.
  50. To choose the kind of education that shall be given to one’s children.
  51. To participate in the cultural life of the community.
  52. To enjoy the arts.
  53. To share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  54. To the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary, or artistic production of which he is the author.
  55. To a social and international order in which human rights and freedoms can be fully realized.

Are there any rights you think shouldn’t have been included? And what inalienable rights — other than WiFi — do you think are missing from the list?

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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