Types of Human Rights Violations (9): Self-Inflicted Human Rights Violations

I want to return briefly to the topic of rights violations that are inflicted, not by others or by the state, but by people on themselves. (See here for a previous post). One example is self-inflicted poverty, or poverty that’s the result of people’s own misguided actions (although I hasten to add that I’m convinced that other causes of poverty are more important and more common; and yes, poverty is a human rights violation).

However, it’s interesting to note that when people inflict poverty on themselves, they don’t merely do so by way of misguided, irrational or self-destructive actions. Poor people may engage in preference adaptation, so as to cope better with their poverty. They may also stubbornly believe that their situation isn’t so bad after all, and that many others are even worse off, even if they are among the worst off. This belief helps them to feel better about their lives. (Read more about this here and here). Both preference adaptation and “counting your blessings” won’t do much to help you pull yourself out of poverty.

The problem is indeed that such coping mechanisms tend to perpetuate poverty, and hence they are part of a process of self-inflicted poverty. People who adapt their preferences and satisfaction levels become less prone to fight for their rights.

This problem isn’t limited to poverty. Oppressive circumstances usually stunt people’s ambitions. If the risks of engaging in protests against a powerful authoritarian government are high, then people may settle in their submission and thank the Lord that they at least have some freedom within their homes. Their lack of protest then helps to maintain their submission, and hence they are partially responsible for the violation of their rights.

By the way, the inherent malleability of preferences – which are elements of the examples given above – discredits all theories of justice that are based on equality of preference satisfaction. Given that circumstances may form preferences and that people may revise their preferences downwards in order to achieve at least some level of satisfaction, equality of preference satisfaction will result in lives of very unequal quality.

More posts in this series are here.

1 thought on “Types of Human Rights Violations (9): Self-Inflicted Human Rights Violations”

  1. Poverty is inflicted by employers and government acting in concert with Employers. It is not the middle person caught up in the bosses conditions, who inflicts the violation.
    Government lies to everyone to protect corporation, and the masses repeats the falsehoods. The Federal Poverty level, from the 1960’s until 2014 is based upon the cost of food alone. Why to have a bogus number of around just 40 million in Lack. Over the decades this number have moved up and down by just 1-6 million.

    The official poverty level is bogus, as it fails to count Rent a place to cook food, clothes to protect you against bacon splatter as you cook. Employment costs to bring home the bacon and vegetables. Refrigator and stove to keep the food cold enough to be healthy and the heat food warm enough to eat. Electicity, or gas to cook with. And heat in the place you cook your food. Etc.

    The government also takes numbers out of the air for minimum wage. And we the American and other populous, think people stood make the cost of living at minimum wage. It is the amount needed to barely stay alive and work making wealth in someone else’s profit machine.

    When people work as hard as they can, given their circumstances of not being able to find and do two 40 hours a week job; they Do NOT CHOOSE to be mired in poverty. They are FORCED into human Lack.

    Human Right defenders, should not say otherwise. By doing So you are protecting the CAUSE of need. You are taking the focus of creation of a human ill condition off the Real Cause. Please stop blaming those who work as hard as the can for Bad Pay.


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