In an editorial in the Detroit News, entitled “There is no right to free water,” Nolan Finley sets out his case against entitlement lefties who believe that shutting off water service to someting like half of the households in Detroit:
Water is not a human right. It’s a human need.
Ever since Adam and Eve got booted out of Eden, people have devoted most of their energy and labor to meeting the basic needs of food, water, clothing and shelter. It’s the origin of work — you’re hungry, you’re thirsty, you need some decent threads and a roof over your head, you have to get up in the morning and do something constructive.
Water, food, clothing, shelter were never bestowed on us because we exist. It costs money to purify water and deliver it to homes. That’s why early on people began forming communities to share the cost of meeting that common need, and others.
Charitable minded citizens have never objected to helping care for neighbors who are unable to care for themselves. But they understandably don’t have much appetite for carrying on their backs those who choose to indulge their wants before their needs.
Of course, he’s wrong about this.
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, in part:
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.
And here’s a bit more from the UN, specifically about water:
On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. The Resolution calls upon States and international organisations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.
In November 2002, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted General Comment No. 15 on the right to water. Article I.1 states that “The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights”. Comment No. 15 also defined the right to water as the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.
But, you see, Finley asserts that no one has a right to water because he thinks people can for it but are simply choosing not to. And he’s nominated himself the arbiter of how other people should prioritize their spending:
[I]nstead of using what resources they have to cover their needs, many water customers instead have chosen to service their wants. That’s what happens when people are conditioned to think someone else is responsible for taking care of them….
Since the cut-offs began, more customers are paying up. The overwhelming majority of households hit with a shut-off are settling their debt to get the water flowing again, suggesting they could have been paying all along.
It’s as simple as that, for Finley. These people aren’t really poor; they’re just mooching off the water company and the good people who do pay their bills while they get to enjoy all the other things they want, like cell phones and cable tv.
But Finley has a heart; he’s pleased that the really poor people, those who can’t afford anything, “are being offered a variety of assistance programs to make sure no one who truly can’t pay for water is shut off.”
So there is free water. As long as you meet all the criteria that people like Nolan Finley have set out.
Incidentally, Finley’s real claim to fame was his “exposé” on Obamaphones. His most recent op-ed, before this one about the water, was titled, “This time let Israel finish the job.”