Rob Buitenweg at the World Humanist Conference

buitenweg.jpgEditors’ Note: Frank Robinson attended the 17th World Humanist Conference in Washington D.C., jointly sponsored by the International Humanist & Ethical Union (IHEU) and The American Humanist Association (AHA), during the weekend of June 5-8, 2008. More information about the conference is still available here and here.Frank recorded, on his blog, commentary about various conference sessions/lectures that he had attended; his thoughtful descriptions deserved the attention of The Eloquent Atheist readership. Departing from his blog, we are including his expanded comments on particularly noteworthy performances, which might inform our readership of the current trends and issues that are prominent within the Humanist movement. Frank’s remarks will be published over several days.

Enjoy, Michael and Marilyn

“Human Rights.” Prof. Rob Buitenweg (Netherlands) spoke on “Human Rights, Human Plights.” He queried why socio-economic rights are considered secondary to political rights—and answered that it’s a mindset of Libertarianism. His talk was basically an attack on Libertarianism, as morally equivalent to Satanism. He rejected the assertedly libertarian idea that freedom means freedom from interference, and nothing else, which he said leads to hostility toward socio-economic rights.

Buitenweg argued for “social justice” on the basis that the well-off are not the legitimate owners of their property, that ultimately all wealth has been produced by “force or manipulation,” and hence its owners can justly be shorn of it to help the poor.

This is rubbish. If you’re reading this, you’re likely in the highest percentiles of global wealth. Did you get there by ripping off the poor? More likely it was through a career that contributed to societal and human betterment, for which you were deservedly compensated. Such contributory effort—not “force and manipulation”—is in fact the source of most wealth in the world. Social “justice” is a faulty concept; the plight of a poor person may unjust or not, but in any case is unacceptable, and he should be helped not out of “justice” but simply humaneness.

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