TaN: Rights, as in right to education [Take note: Education is both a right as well as a privilege and not just a right, as some have mistakenly attested or expressed], are not commodities. They cannot and should not be commercialized or commoditized. By argument, rights are inalienable as differentiated from privileges which are conferred entitlements – which are also entitlements be definition. Since rights are inalienable (i.e., we are born with them, they are inherent and inseparable except upon death), what is not given cannot be taken away.
To extend the argument, since rights are inalienable, which is the same as saying they are inseparable, it would be completely contradictory and nonsensical to commoditize rights – since they cannot be separated from us, even on a temporary basis.
Commoditzation implies possessing or having the character of a sale which is the transfer of ownership. When a sale is done or consumated, whatever property or commodity has been sold ceases to be the property of the vendor or peddler and, with it, the right to property or ownership.
In the case of copyrights and of IPRs (intellectual property rights), these are not only restrictive – as mentioned in my earlier blog/s – but they are misleading, in the sense that they contain the word “right”. They imply that they are entitlements but, in truth, as more of claims of propriety. It is for this reason that they can be commoditized. If they are rights, they should not possess the characteristic of saleability or transferability of ownership.
This is the case with software, where users have been indoctrinated or led to believe and accept that the software they have paid good money for do not really belong to them – i.e., ownership has not be transferred – otherwise there would be no legal basis for piracy (the definition of which is questionable and is the subject of another lengthy and messy debate). In software piracy, a user is liable only because the ownership of the software still belongs to the author or whoever is legally recognized as the owner. The user is only granted permission to use the software. This is only reason and way that the issue of piracy can have a leg to stand on. (This leads to another entirely digressing discussion which I will reserve for a later opportunity.) Suffice it to say that copyrights and IPRs are not rights at all but mere permits granted to a user by the owner to avail of a commodity while the true proprietorship stays with the owner.
Moreover, there can and should be no categorization of rights that can be commoditized and those that cannot otherwise this would create an opportunity for unscrupulous people to attempt to recategorize certain rights in order to benefit from it.
As for privileges, though these may also be considered “rights”, they are more of permits – licenses, if you will, rather than rights, similar to the case of copyrights and of IPRs. They are conditional or circumstancial and are not inalienable. Privileges are endowed because certain conditions or circumstances or criteria have been met or satisfied, like right to suffrage (because one belongs to a political organization). Another illustration would be the license to drive, where one must satisfactorily exhibit one’s skill to drive – not just operate – a specific vehicle or machinery before the license will be issued (certifying that you have shown sufficient and satisfactory skills to manipulate or operate a specific vehicle or machinery responsibly.
In this light, to put a price on a right is not just an expression of ignorance of what a right truly is but even a subversion of the true nature of things. To put a price on a right means that money is involved – so deeply involved that the free exercise of the right is impeded by the lack of wealth, that one needs to pay in order to avail of a right. An good example of this is the right to education.
Since education (up to the intermediate, secondary or high school level) is a right, all those entitled must be able to avail of the education and hindered only by circumstances or conditions beyond control (like the distance from the educational facility and other natural barriers). In cases where education is a privilege (mostly at the tertiary or collegiate level and even higher), there should still be some degree of ethical or moral restraint with respect to the financial aspect.
There are three things that, once established, must be kept open or operating – short of extremes: a place of worship, a medical facility, and a school. All efforts must be exhausted to keep them open and operating effectively.
By contrast, what has been given can be taken away. This argument is identical to the saying that one that which has no beginning can have no end (like in a circle, where it has no beginning ergo it has no end). Since a right is not given, it cannot be taken away – even be momentarily deprived or unavailable. If a right can be taken away, suspended, or otherwise made unavailable, then it cannot be a right.
As explained above, commoditization injects a quality of transferability of ownership so when a right can be commoditized, then it can be taken away, which is in contradiction to what is the character or nature of a right.