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Internet is not a Human Right

Internet is not a Human Right

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August 26, 2013


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced a new initiative to promote the spread of internet usage world wide. He titled his announcement “ Is Connectivity a Human Right?

The answer is “no.” Connectivity is not a human right.

Zuckerberg implies, however, that the answer should be “yes.” He seems to think there is a right to an internet connection. He explains how useful the internet is, how it is involved in an open-ended knowledge economy. This is the classic argument style for pseudo-rights: show that people would benefit, other things equal, if they had the thing. Then assume that others are obliged to provide it.

But just because something is useful or nice to have, doesn't make it a human right.

As I explain in in my Atlas University video “ What are Rights? ”, rights identify the freedom to act that we need in order to be able to use our minds freely and make our own life choices. The fundamental individual rights are life, liberty, and property.

To be sure, real rights are relevant to the internet. Like any useful product, internet connectivity is something that real rights leave one free to produce and free to buy (assuming someone else is willing to sell).

In this context, and dropping the pseudo-rights language, I am a fan of Zuckerberg's initiative. I appreciate it when talented, creative, driven people work hard to drive down the costs of goods I value. Zuckerberg has the Silicon Valley attitude: in his detailed explanation of his ideas, he emphasizes that profitability is the key to economic sustainability.

There is a business opportunity in bringing the internet to neglected populations. Just look at how cheap cell-phone service has swept the globe, bypassing the old telecoms monopolies and making fortunes for the savvy entrepreneurs who made cheap cell systems work.

Pseudo-rights claims open the door to subsidies and government takeovers. They imply that some should be robbed so that others may have.

So, no, expanded internet access isn't a right. Instead, it's an opportunity.

For Further Information:

" Angry Customoers Should Reevalute Netflix's Changes " by Alexander R. Cohen

" What Is The Objectivist View Of Law And Government (Politics)? " by William R Thomas