Income inequality and human rights

Lee Doren’s comments (HowTheWorldWorks) about economic inequality not being a real human rights issue and that the United States is nothing like oppressive regimes warranted a response:

Here’s how the report is basically written. It states some sort of law that the United States passed like the American Disabilities Act, or other types of laws, that prevent “economic inequality” in the United States. They talk about title nine. And then it states that we still have steps in the United States to take to make human rights no longer a problem. Those are not human rights violations, OK.

Yes those are human rights violation, and I’ll explain why.

If you take a look at the article you link to it explains what is used as a basis to determine the human rights issues. I quote:

This review, conducted through the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), is based upon human rights obligations and commitments expressed in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [and] human rights instruments to which the State is party.

It specifically mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document signed by the United States in 1948. Which was a direct response to the atrocities in World War II. And it sole function is to give people the rights and freedoms they need to live a happy and productive life.

And article 25 very clearly states:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

This means that economic inequality can be a civil rights issue.

If someone doesn’t have enough income he isn’t able to care properly for his family and this can restrict his access to services like healthcare. A service that’s crucial for a happy and productive life, especially in poor countries.

And that’s just one reason why the report states economic inequality as a human rights issue. But it even gets better with the following statement he makes:

Yes! The United States is better than other countries around the world. We are not violators of “human rights violations” like these other sick countries are. It’s absolutely absurd and it cheapens the definition of human rights.

Do I really have to remind Lee, or anyone else for that matter, of the incidents in the Abu Ghraib prison? And that the United States is currently holding people captive in Guantanomo Bay, without them even knowing why they are being held captive? This last one is specifically mentioned in the report Lee Doren criticises as an example of a violation, and what the U.S. is doing about it.

And this is mentioned as a violation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the following articles:

Article 9
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

So there is definitely room for improvement here.

However, Lee is correct with saying that the U.S. is better than the oppressive regimes he mentioned. But, this does not mean the U.S. is perfect, without violations, blame or cannot strive to better itself for it citizens. And striving to become a country that is a symbol of human rights and equality is what this document is all about. To quote the report: “A more perfect union, a more perfect world.”.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.