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Internet access, human rights and obliquity

I wish it were more broadly appreciated that respect for human rights has very positive economic benefits. Perhaps conservative thinkers would then shift from the default position of seeing them as an expensive indulgence. There are national security benefits too, but that’s for a different post.

Author and commentator John Kay argues against the inclusion of internet access as a human right (FT. com – registration required). This is in response to a BBC poll that finds 79% of the UK in favour. His objection is one of cost. In other words, he makes a mistake that many others do, namely that human rights mean that the state is obliged to pay for them.

Because John Kay is generally a quite reasonable chap with a refreshingly broad minded approach to economics, corporate strategy and so on, I responded at length on the site. I’ve copied that post below. The three fundamental points are:

  • Proponents of a right to internet access do not raise the issue of cost because costs are already quite low. They are at most a side issue to the issue of ensuring no-one’s internet access is blocked through badly written laws.
  • The language of human rights already includes the idea that a right to something does not mean the individual won’t have to pay for it. I give the example that the right to marriage does not mean the registration fee or the wedding itself will be paid for by government.
  • A deeper concern by government for human rights (e.g. taking basic needs such as housing seriously) would have economic benefits.

My response in full: Read more