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Dignity and Freedom in the Eyes of the Law

The decision by the US supreme court was apparently based on the mistaken notion that marriage is a government institution and consequently every citizen has an equal right to it. Actually, marriage was created before recorded history as a ritual that unites a man and a woman. It has followed this pattern for millenia. Therefore, it is a de facto heterosexual institution. Any government that wants to expand it to include homosexual couples should first obtain the permission of the heterosexual population. Only then may they legislate the expansion of marriage. If the permission is refused then the homosexual population, having the same right as the heterosexual one, may create an institution like marriage but called something else. That is what equal right really means.

By the way, I see dignity as a common value, not a right. Respect for a person as a human being is a right. So much confusion about these things!

Filed under: Comments on News Stories | June 27th, 2015

U-Tube Course in Human Rights

A condensed version of “Human Rights, What Are They Really?” has been uploaded to U-Tube as a short course in human rights. It is in 3 segments-

Segment 1: Elements of a right and natural rights

Segment 2: Subsidiary rights

Segment 3: Comparison with prevailing human rights doctrine

Go to:

      Segment 1:

      Segment 2:

      Segment 3:

A 4th segment is planned and will appear later in the year.


Filed under: Notices, Uncategorized | June 27th, 2015

Gross violations of the right to education in Chile: time to act


  • Education is not a human right. In the 1940’s idealists wrote it into the UN declaration but the right was invented to support their notion of an ideal society. True rights are discovered, not invented. Having said that education may be a right under the law, or a “civil right” as US Americans call it. Here is how that happens. The population may decide thru a democratic process such as a referendum, that a certain proportion of government revenue will be assigned for a specified amount and kind of public education. The legislature may then pass a law providing for the specified education, e.g., education of children up to grade 8, for all capable children. Of course this law, as all laws, apply to everyone in the jurisdiction.
  • The government of Chile apparently decided to utilize private schools as well as government owned schools to provide the education. If there is a difference in the result achieved it is basically an administrative problem and at worst a deficiency in the civil right of obtaining an education.


Filed under: Comments on News Stories | June 11th, 2015

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About The Author

Robert Stephen Higgins was born into a coal-mining family in Nova Scotia but grew up mostly in Southern Ontario. In 1964 he graduated from the University of Toronto in Mechanical Engineering and began his engineering career in the aero engine and aircraft fields. This included a period at the Boeing Airplane Company in Seattle as a material stress analyst on the 747 jetliner project. Worried that aircraft design projects were too discontinuous for raising a family he moved to the power industry. Through the 1970’s he was a design and project mechanical engineer on new oil and coal-fired power stations in Canada and the USA. Much higher pay and adventure called to him in taking a project engineering position for the construction of a nuclear power station in Argentina. He remained in the Canadian nuclear power industry as a design engineer until taking early retirement in 1999. Afterwards, he completed two consultant contracts in the nuclear field, the latter taking him to South Africa to manage a mechanical engineering department on a project to design and build a demonstration pebble-bed modular reactor (nuclear) which, unfortunately, was cancelled in 2008.

Robert was not just an engineer, however, but an interested student of the whole human story. History and archaeology were fascinating subjects, but closer to home the direction in which politicians, judges, and others in positions of power were taking society was of more serious concern. A public confrontation with the president of the large company (23,000 employees) for which he worked was a tipping point. Robert suggested that the employment equity program which the president was promoting would discriminate against white males. The president replied that he did not care if it did, he was going to implement it anyway. Reflecting on this interchange afterwards, Robert concluded that employment equity programs were more about designing society than about individual rights.

After retirement, he applied his long experience with objective analysis to discover what human rights really were. His book Human Rights, What Are They Really? was published in late 2008. More writing is ahead amid efforts to advance his own technical projects.

In April, 2014, Robert became a member of the board of the Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa.