The "Human Rights" Deception

By Stevens, Richard W. | Freeman, December 1998 | Go to article overview

The "Human Rights" Deception


Stevens, Richard W., Freeman


On December 10, 1998, world and national leaders commemorate the birthday of an impostor. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 50 years old on that date. Because Americans know so little about their own Constitution and Bill of Rights, most do not know that the Universal Declaration destroys both the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights. So when President Clinton declares that the documents are equally great statements of human rights, as he did last year, few people will protest.

The Bill of Rights, the true statement of individual rights and limited government, turns 207 on December 15, 1998. Unless Americans actively celebrate Bill of Rights Day that day, the proximity of the two anniversaries permits the Universal Declaration to shine as an international protector of rights while the Bill of Rights is largely ignored.' To borrow from Gresham's Law, "bad rights drive out good."

Erasing the Bill of Rights

The Universal Declaration does not require any government to respect any particular individual rights. Instead, it provides, according to the preamble, only a "common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations." Its "standard of achievement," however, practically obliterates Americans' constitutional rights.

Of the roughly 34 individual rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, the U.N.'s Declaration nominally protects only eight. (See Table I.) Five more rights find only partial support in the U.N. Declaration, including the prohibition of bills of attainder, the protection of citizens' privileges and immunities while traveling or living in other states, and the protection against "arbitrary interference" with privacy, home, and family. Fully 21 other American individual rights disappear entirely. (See Table II on the next page.)

Universal Power to Plunder

The U.N.'s Declaration not only fails to protect core American individual rights; it also enshrines the power to plunder. Frederic Bastiat, the French economics writer, observed that human beings can satisfy their wants either by "ceaseless labor" or by "seizing the product of others."2 Government's proper job, Bastiat said, is "to stop this fatal tendency to plunder instead of work."3 The Universal Declaration runs directly contrary to any notion of a plunder-free society.

By couching itself in the language of individual rights, the Universal Declaration legitimizes the power to plunder. For example, Article 22 declares that "Everyone . . . has the right to social security." The only way that "everyone" can have such a right is for government to force workers to pay for nonworkers' welfare and retirement funds.4 So the declared "right" of "everyone" to social security requires that national governments institute schemes of plunder.

Using the device of granting "rights" to "everyone," the Universal Declaration mandates many such schemes. The Declaration grants:

the "right to work"

the right to "just and favourable conditions of work"

the right to "protection against unemployment"

the "right to just and favourable remuneration . . . supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection"

the "right to rest and leisure"

the "right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [the individual and his family], including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services," as well as health, employment, and disability insurance the "right to education"

To bestow each of these "rights" on everyone the governments must decide what each citizen is entitled to, how much to spend, what private or business conduct is permitted and prohibited, and then compel the citizens to pay. Massive government intrusion into all facets of human life becomes necessary to implement these "rights" to plunder. After all the systems of compelling and plundering are installed, little can remain of the Universal Declaration's Article 3 right to liberty and its Article 17 right to own property. …

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