Is “material comfort” now a basic right of all citizens?

15 November, 2011

President Michael D. Higgins, in his inaugural address said: “… it is time to turn to an older wisdom that, while respecting material comfort and security as a basic right of all, also recognises that many of the most valuable things in life cannot be measured.”

Hang on a minute: does everybody have a basic right to material comfort, to be provided by the state if one’s own resources or efforts fail to deliver? What about the incurably indolent member of society?

The provision for needy citizens of basic shelter, and the avoidance of real hunger, admittedly seem reasonable demands on the State in any civilised country. But actual comfort?

I can probably live with Higgins’s assertion that “security” is a basic right, on the grounds that security is ill-defined and can mean different things to different people.

But comfort? This is just careless waffle, surely?

Did I miss a United Nations Declaration to the effect that everybody has a right not to be uncomfortable?  (The nearest the Universal Declaration of Human Rights comes is in Article 25, which says “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.”)

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One Response to “Is “material comfort” now a basic right of all citizens?”


  1. […] on from our new President’s assertion that we all have a basic right to material comfort, here are some further thoughts on the creeping […]


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