The Corpus Callosum

An Unbearable Tortuosity Of Logic

On 24 November 2008, the United Nations reported the outcome of the Human Rights Council’s Working Group On Right To Development. They held a vote on the question of whether people have a right to food. The United States of America voted against this:

By a vote of 180 in favour to 1 against (United States) and no abstentions, the Committee also approved a resolution on the right to food, by which the Assembly would “consider it intolerable” that more than 6 million children still died every year from hunger-related illness before their fifth birthday, and that the number of undernourished people had grown to about 923 million worldwide, at the same time that the planet could produce enough food to feed 12 billion people, or twice the world’s present population…

…After the vote, the representative of the United States said he was unable to support the text because he believed the attainment of the right to adequate food was a goal that should be realized progressively. In his view, the draft contained inaccurate textual descriptions of underlying rights.

This puts the United States of America in the peculiar position of asserting the humans have an inalienable right to life, but not a right to food.

One of our vice-Presidential candidates said, famously, that America is a “beacon of hope.”

Right. You can have life. You can even have all the hope you want. Indeed, please have more hope; it’s good for the economy. But food? no, that is a privilege. This is America: the land of the free. The land of the brave. The land of the selfish bastards.

Is it any surprise that people throw shoes at our President?


  1. #1 Matthew Platte
    December 21, 2008

    Uh… I believe the expression is “Bacon of Hope”.

  2. #2 Scott
    December 22, 2008

    Do individuals have a right to food? This gets to the question of “economic rights”. Do individuals have a right to a job? Do individuals have a right to health care? Do individuals have a right to electricity? Really? And if someone doesn’t get food (a job, health care, electricity, etc), who is going to guarantee those inalienable “rights”? Is it the responsibility of the government to provide you with food if you have none? What if you have some, but not as much as you want? Who decides what is enough food, in order to determine whether your right to food has been satisfied? Do we need a national(ized) food distribution system to ensure that every individual has their minimum daily calorie and vitamin intake? Can you sue the grocery store or the restaurant because they do not provide you with the food to which you have a “right”?

    Yes, historically the United States has stood up for “political rights”, because typically it is the government that can take away those political rights. Historically it has not been government that takes away your food (well, except in the sense of “taxes”), because it isn’t government that grows or distributes your food.

    Historically the United States has stayed away from recognizing “economic rights”, because that leads down the road to economic socialism. Whether socialism is a good thing or not can be debated, but typically the U.S. has sided with regulated capitalism to solve economic problems.

    The Declaration talks about the right to the “pursuit” of happiness. It does not say that you have the right to obtain happiness. Trying to guarantee economic “rights” is to guarantee economic “success”, for some definition of “success”.

    Before you say that you have an inalienable “right” to food, answer some of the these questions.

  3. #3 George Kent
    December 22, 2008

    At the global level, there is no question about the existence of the right to food. It is there in international law–whether or not you agree with it.

    The right is explained in detail in my book, Freedom from Want: The Human Right to Adequate Food, published by Georgetown University Press. You can have a no-cost PDF of it at

    Aloha, George

  4. #4 TheEngima32
    December 23, 2008

    Yes. People have a right to food, housing and health-care. You can’t have any of the other inalienable rights (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) without food, housing and health-care. The answer to the wonderful question that Cain asks – “Am I my Brother’s Keeper” – well folks, the answer is “yes.” And the complaints about socialism are based on this notion that somehow taxes are bad. So long as you make enough to get by, and enjoy life (that has nothing to do with taxes – that’s the standard of living a different ball of wax entirely), does it matter how much money you keep? I understand there’s concern that money we give our government won’t necessarily go to the best of intentions (for instance – the recent Wall Street bailout), but it’s far better than charities at getting people food, shelter, and health-care. Especially health-care. Especially when said charities have as much as 50% overhead. Someone has to look out for people and offer a helping hand when they need it – that’s what the Government is there for. Very few people go through life looking for a handout. Most people don’t want one. But a little help from time to time is welcomed by everyone, at least until they can get onto their own two feet again again.

  5. #5 Trin Tragula
    December 24, 2008

    According to the U.N., you also have a right not to have bad things said about your religion.

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