Howard Steven Friedman

Howard Steven Friedman
Location
New York, New York, USA
Birthday
June 10
Bio
Howard Steven Friedman works as a statistician and health economist for the United Nations. He has been a lead modeler on a number of key United Nations projects including the ICPD @ 15 Costing, High Level Task Force on Innovative Financing, and the Adding It Up reports. He is credited with being the lead developer of the tool used for costing the health-related Millennium Development Goals. He is also an adjunct professor at School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Prior to joining the United Nations, Howard ran Analytic Solutions LLC, which provides consulting services in designing, developing and modeling data. This work also included teaching data mining and modeling techniques for major international corporations and foreign governments. Prior to that, he was a Director at Capital One, where he led teams of statisticians, analysts and programmers in operations and marketing. Howard is the author of over 35 scientific articles and book chapters in areas of applied statistics, health economics with recent publications in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, Current Medical Research & Opinion, Clinical Therapeutics, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy, Clinical Drug Investigation and Value in Health. Howard Friedman received his BS from Binghamton University in Applied Physics and a Masters in Statistics, along with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Please note that all comments on this blog reflect the opinions of the author and not those of the United Nations or Columbia University

Howard Steven Friedman's Links

Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 28, 2013 7:40PM

Rights Are Not Entitlements

Rate: 6 Flag

As Americans discuss our system of social supports, we constantly hear the word "entitlements" and rarely the word "rights." Of course, in America the word "entitlements" is not a neutral word. Rather, it is a loaded word, laced with specific attitudes and associations in both the speaker's mouths and listener's ears.

Instead of repeating facts about how America's system of social supports is substantially smaller than nearly every other wealthy democratic country or the simple fact that America is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, it is important to pause to think about the concept of human rights.

A good starting point for thinking about human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a declaration authored by a number of international delegates (including former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) and adopted by the United States and other members of the United Nations in 1948. This document builds on other declarations of human rights that have occurred in the past including our own Declaration of Independence's statement of the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

In our era of drone strikes without a judicial process, it is important to point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "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."

In our era of for-profit prisons pushing legislation to increase America's already world-leading incarceration rates even higher, our era of prison gerrymandering and prison labor, it is important to point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude."

In our era of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, it is important to point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."

In our era of attempts to slash support for the unemployment and aggressive attempts to dismantle the rights of labor to organize, it is important to point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment."

In our era of attacks on America's already minimal social security system, it is important to point out that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

There was a time when our nation eloquently wrote and spoke in support of the basic rights of humans yet we have consistently abandoned those words, time after time, action after action, century after century.

Often when someone suggests that America needs to slash "entitlements," I find myself asking two simple questions, "What are the most fundamental human rights and what role should governments play in guaranteeing those fundamental human rights?" After all, fundamental human rights are not items that legislation should be able to give and take away with the stroke of a pen or the barrel of a gun.


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[r] well said. when was the last time a politician mentioned the public trust or the common good? you can't serve two masters and the pols don't serve the citizenry any more. they serve their oligarchical pimps. best, libby
[r] well said. when was the last time a politician mentioned the public trust or the common good? you can't serve two masters and the pols don't serve the citizenry any more. they serve their oligarchical pimps. best, libby
Howard, I personally try never to use the word “entitlements” when I actually mean “the safety net system.”

In my opinion, the safety net system should be expanded…not contracted. I suspect from the tone of this piece that you feel somewhat the same way.

But I take exception to some of the other items in your list. I would say your litany did not mention:]

In our era…the dangers are quite different from what was faced in 1948…and the way we deal with them must change commensurately.
Excellent post! I agree. "Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person." Everyone, including the person living in another neighborhood or country.

Even though we stumble (and full-on gallop) off course, we need to keep this Declaration as our goal, and keep coming back to it. Somewhere I read that a plane is off track maybe 99% of the time, but the navigator and pilot keep correcting its course over and over again, towards the destination. We have to do that towards the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We've been straying too far off course.
It has been, for a very long time, the policy of the US government to generate great and false fears to justify the diversion of the bulk of the wealth of the very rich country away from the basic common needs of the populace into the areas of military expenditures and support of the ultra rich who now own most of the country. Not satisfied with skimming most f the general wealth gains due to the huge increase in productive technology the financial sector and other corporate entities now are driving most of the country into huge debt and abject poverty, thus killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. It is a weird form of national suicide since the wealth will disappear with the demise of the country.
I think that if many went back to the free wheeling days of no government regulations they would soon find themselves in a country will 75% in poverty working from day to day just to get by. The job of government is the maintain a level playing field so that everyone can participate in the life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Those who call for dismantling government have no idea that left to its own devices unrestrained capitalism will result in economic oppression of almost everyone. Capitalism is a great thing when the government is maintaining a level playing field. Remove the restraints and you end up with a few haves and a whole lot of have nots.
"...Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment."

Just think, it was only a few short months ago when WI, and other states, were trying to pass right to work (see above) laws where where everyone had a choice to just and favorable (see above) work conditions where they didn't have to pay bribes to unions to keep their job and not be unemployed (see above) that the people here were screaming about people being allowed to associate themselves, or not, with a union that was being forced on them by those who came before them.

Yes we have a social safety net. It's a safety net, not a way of life. So what do you want to do with those who are content to live on a safety net?
Very well said. It is infuriating to hear earned benefits sneered at as "entitlements," as if they were gifts handed down from the rich and privileged they can snatch back at will. Social Security is not an entitlement, for example. It is an entirely self-funded insurance pool. Anyone who doesn't know they difference (like former Senator Alan Simpson) shouldn't be participating in the discussion until the get the basic facts striaght in his head.
Although the U.S, is a signatory to the U.N Declaration of Human Rights, few Americans have ever read its provisions. Also, because its language is considered precatory and not to constitute binding treaty obligations under international law, U.S. courts disregard its provisions.

I once insisted upon reading the U.N's Declarations provision regrading employment as a human right into the record in a Massachusetts Superior Court over the objection of the judge, but here in the U.S., we still cling to the legal fiction of employment at will.and make it virtually impossible for employees to unionize and to bargain collectively.

Rights, with all apologies to the Founding Fathers, do not "fall from the heavens." They depend for their existence and effect upon recognition by citizens, as expressed through their legal systems and political institutions, and they carry with them reciprocal obligations. Over time, as a result of informed political discourse, our understanding of what constitutes a right and which rights citizens acknowledge and accept, evolves.

Here the U.S. the myth that rights are divinely ordained and are self-executing persists. It hampers the ability of many Americans to admit that laws and supportive political institutions are essential to ensure the validation and protection of rights In a democratic society, government is should not be viewed as the enemy of rights, but rather must be "commanded " by its citizens to enforce rights as essential to governance and as the highest priority of all citizens - the most basic definition of the public interest.

Lastly, should rights be viewed as something purely negative - as fences that one can build around individuals to wall off our obligations to one another as citizens since without mutuality and reciprocity - which require a social and political contest - rights would remain as mere abstractions.

International covenants and declarations, because they express the evolving consensus of humankind, help to point the way. The growing reluctance of federal and state courts in the U.S. to recognize "foreign law" - even the court decisions of fellow common law countries - is an appalling step background from understanding how the evolving consensus promotes human rights and continued human progress.
Damn right, they're not.

"Entitlement" seems to be the GOP's favorite term for "It's a right for ME, but an unearned privilege for YOU" lately.

There shouldn't even be a debate about who has the right to vote--the answer should be "Everybody."