Is Internet Access a “Right”?

A reader writes:

In downtown St. Petersburg FL, there are a lot of homeless people.  One day a homeless guy wanted money and I shook my head ‘no,’ and he got angry and sarcastic saying ‘bless you’ or something.  I thought to myself that it’s not my duty to give him money and he has no right being angry.

Other times I see people in those motorized wheel chairs and they seem to expect people to get out of their way, especially if it’s a car and they always look angry.  I have felt that they are angry because they feel they have a right to something and that other people owe them something.

I was surprised one day when I found a site claiming Internet Access is a right (  Note the top of the page saying, ‘The Internet Is a Right Not a Privilege’.  To me, this is clearly an attack on those who provide those services. Those who provide the service expect to be paid; they are not doing it as a sacrifice.

I believe in property, and that includes yourself.  You have no right to another person’s ‘being’, you have no right to ‘them.’

My comments:

I could not agree more.

Before you claim a ‘right’ to something, ask yourself if you’re willing to make the right go both ways. If your $1000 rightly belongs to someone else because he has nothing, doesn’t another person’s $100,000 belong to you, since you merely have a $1000? If you’re entitled to another’s $50,000 because you’re poor, once you attain that $50,000, aren’t you now obliged to turn around and give most of it away to someone who has less?

People claim to believe, ‘If someone is in need, and I’m better off than this person, then I owe him something.’

OK. But there’s always someone better off than you, and someone worse off than you. However needy this other person is, there’s someone even worse off than he is. If you’re obliged to give him something because you have more, isn’t he then obliged to seek out someone else even worse off, and give it all to them?

It’s crazy. These platitudes and ideas never survive on their own terms. They perish from their own contradictions. That’s why, I suppose, these ideas of self-sacrifice are always propped up by (1) neurotic guilt or (2) political force (or both).

Notice that voluntary charity and kindness require neither guilt nor force. When people give, not out of a sense of duty, but because they sincerely wish to help out a particular person, there’s no need to impose guilt or force on the giving party.

Expecting something as a right turns off the motivation to give. I’ll bet that in certain situations you wouldn’t mind getting out of the way of someone in a wheelchair. Voluntary acts of nonsacrificial kindness can be pleasurable—precisely because they are neither demanded nor expected. But the minute someone orders you to do so—whatever element of self-respect and self-esteem exists within you recoils against it.

This is human nature, and it’s as it should be.

So now the Internet is up for grabs. No surprise there, since everything else has become collective property, at least in many people’s minds.

It’s easy to say, ‘The Internet is public property.’ It takes no courage or intellectual effort to post on Facebook, for example, ‘Look at me. I support free Internet for all. The Internet is a right.’ You can click ‘like’ on this statement and feel a great, easy sense of ‘self-esteem’ when others approve of your moralistic platitudes. No effort or thought required at all to be a conspicuous altruist, is there?

But does anyone stop to think what ‘the Internet’ actually is? It’s not some kind of floating entity devoid of the people who operate, pay money for, and put effort into producing all that comprises it. It’s a technological capacity involving a great number of variables, each created by actual, live people. People are entitled to the product of their efforts. Those efforts are not public property (i.e., the property of some politician or legislative body who seizes power, with 51 percent of the vote or some other means.) Your property is your very self, the literal embodiment of your mind and efforts. This applies whether you grow your own garden, pay your own mortgage on your own house, pay for your own car or design your own website (or pay another to do so.)

Property is more than ownership of material things. Legal entitlement to material things is the form which property takes. But the meaning of property is much deeper than that. ‘Property’ refers to that which you create through the efforts of your own mind. Property is your own self, made into bodily form. If you have no right to property, then you have no right to yourself.

Of course, there’s no escaping ownership. If you relinquish ownership over yourself, then someone else owns you. Any government is happy to step up and take ownership. So is a common criminal. If you refuse to assert ownership over what’s rightfully yours, then rest assured someone will come along to fill the void.

This is the issue where self-esteem/psychology and ethics meet and fuse into one. There’s no such thing as self-esteem without a deep and abiding conviction that you’re entitled to what you own. There’s no such thing as property without self-esteem, and self-esteem always leads to an assertion of private property. It’s no different with the Internet than with anything else.


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