Monday, 6 April 2015

On Bottom Up and Top Down Thinking - Parts 10/11

10. Rights and aspirations

The bottom up thinker values human rights. In his view, anyone who behaves as a civilized human being deserves to be treated as a civilized human being. And that means that he has certain rights.

The bottom up thinker finds that most of the “human rights” listed in, for example, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights are good and valid. Though such lists often also contain a few claimed “rights” that are not real.

He divides the valid rights into a number of groups. First, basic rights like life (in the sense of not being murdered), dignity, property and security of person. This group also includes negative rights such as not being tortured, inhumanly treated, coerced into marriage, or arrested or detained without charge. Second, rights which must never be violated arbitrarily; that is, without reasonable suspicion of real wrongdoing. For example, no interference with privacy, home or correspondence.

The third group of rights are the fundamental freedoms (or, as I call them, rights of non-impedance). These include: freedom of thought, religion, opinion, speech and peaceful assembly; the right to seek work; and the rights of free movement and residence. And fourth, what I will call procedural rights, such as equality before the law, fair and public trials and innocence until proven guilty.

The bottom up thinker also recognizes that there are many important rights, which are not to be found in human rights literature today. Among these, he may list: No stalking or routine surveillance. No arbitrary or random search. A right to be told the truth. A right to pursue happiness. And a right to say “No” – that is, to refuse to take part in others’ schemes.

There are, however, also several good sounding ideals (often dubbed “positive rights,” though I prefer to call them aspirations), which are not real rights. This is because to implement them requires violating other people’s rights, for example by forcing them to pay for what they don’t need or want. Such faux “rights” include social security, a guaranteed minimum standard of living, and “free” education.

The top down thinker, on the other hand, often talks a good game about human rights. But in reality, he doesn’t care about others’ rights at all. He may support, for example, cameras on every street corner, or routine interception of people’s e-mails. He may want to control even the smallest details of others’ lives. He may agitate to restrict freedom of speech or assembly. He may support policies that damage the economy, or make it harder for people to find work. He may seek to re-distribute wealth and power from the honest and productive to himself and his cronies. Or to the lazy, or to the dishonest, or to the politically connected. And he wants, of course, to impose heavy taxation to pay for his evil schemes.

11. Freedom and subjection

The bottom up thinker knows, deep down, that he himself is naturally good. So, he sees others – real criminals, of course, excepted – as naturally good, too. And he sees criminal acts, and acts that harm others or violate their rights, as aberrations. They are uncivilized conduct.

Because of this, the bottom up thinker envisions a presumption of freedom as the default in all situations. That is, as long as an individual doesn’t harm others, doesn’t intend any crime and doesn’t violate anyone’s rights, then he must always be free to choose and to act as he wishes. And when there is a need to act with care – for example, when driving a car – the bottom up thinker wants each person to make his own judgements, and to take full responsibility for his own conduct.

In contrast, the top down thinker tends to find many, if not most, people to be naturally bad. This may perhaps, even, include himself. He sees little or no value in individual freedom. He likes to see people controlled, and subjected to authority and discipline. He favours, for example, arbitrary (and ever decreasing) speed and drink-driving limits on the roads. And he wants them harshly policed, so it’s easy to get people, and to force them to toe the line. So, the top down thinker is a subjection thinker.

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