Rights, Rights, And More Rights—But No Responsibilities

Busy day. So here, just for fun, and woefully incomplete, are a list of “rights” recently discovered. Remember: there can be no rights without responsibilities. If you invoke a right, you imply a responsibility. The real question is then who has the responsibility. The question can never be what had the responsibility, because inanimate objects are powerless.

Thus, “governments” cannot have a responsibility because these are fictions, they are groupings and gatherings of men. The burden is always to identify which men have the responsibility.

Some of these are almost certainly not meant to be “rights” in the philosophic sense, but modern people are so used to speaking in terms of “rights” that they use the term indiscriminately.

20 Comments

  1. I am not sure I buy into the idea that every right entails a responsibility. Perhaps you could explain that more fully.

    Take the example of my right to free speech. It is a well acknowledged right in this country. What are my responsibilities? There is are a few curtailments of this right. I can’t yell “Movie!” in a croweded firehouse. And, if my retoric is sufficiently inflamatory, the state could arrest me for inciting violence.

    Is your suggestion that these curtailments on my right to speech is expression of my “responsibility” to excercise my rights with a modicum of thoughfulness?

    You have the right to pursue happiness, you do not have the right to be happy.

  2. Doug M,

    Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same philosophical coin. If you have the right to free political speech, then I and everybody else that lives here have the responsibility of allowing you that free speech. A responsibility does not have to mean taking an action, it can mean not taking one.

    For example, if you have the right to, say, health care (whatever that might be), that must mean that you require that somebody else pay your bills.

    All,

    The list above I generated after a solid eight minutes of internet searching. Surely we can add to it.

  3. “Stress overload and heart attack are not in your job description, so don’t take them on.”

    At my place of employment it is listed quite clearly, “Other duties as required.”

  4. OK, I googled “rights” and got this mess: [hope all the html works]
    You have the right to be on an airline flight, if you have proof of a confirmed reservation, even if there is no record of your reservation in the airline’s computer system.
    Even if you have already checked in for your flight, an airline has the right to cancel your reservation if you are not at the departure gate on time. Your seat may also be given to another passenger, regardless of whether you have an advance boarding pass or an advance seat assignment. By the same token, if you do not check your baggage in on time the airline will not be responsible for any delay in the delivery of your baggage to your destination.
    Airlines are not required to compensate passengers for delayed or canceled flights.
    It is legal for airlines to sell more seats for a flight than are actually on the plane.
    If you are bumped involuntarily, the airline must explain your rights in a written document, which will also fill you in on how the airline decides who does and who doesn’t get to stay on an oversold flight.
    The following is a partial list of situations in which an airline may legally deny you boarding or remove you from a flight on which you are confirmed.
    If the airline must comply with any government regulation or request for emergency transportation in connection with national defense
    If there is inclement weather or other conditions beyond the airline’s control
    If you refuse to be searched for explosives or concealed weapons
    If you refuse to provide positive identification or don’t have proper documentation for travel across international boundaries
    If your conduct is disorderly, abusive or violent, or if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
    If you are barefoot or unable to sit in your seat with seatbelt fastened
    If you attempt to interfere with any member of the flight crew or if you have a deadly or dangerous weapon

  5. Not only do these rights have a corresponding responsibility, they also have a corresponding right that gets taken away! Airlines no longer have the right to charge per seat. Employers no longer have the right to operate their business as they see fit. Etc.

    Although, I will disagree with you that implementing Die Endösung is an opinion or political persuasion… it’s more of an action, which means you are no longer entitled to certain rights. Also I think you agree that children should have the same rights regardless of who their parents are. The “treated in the same way” bit is talking about having equal rights, I think, not that parents can’t treat their kids preferentially.

  6. I’m also agreeing that children should have the same rights regardless of who their (responsible?) parents might be. Especially the right to remain silent in a public venue when it is appropriate with all children being treated without preference. 😉

  7. Ignorant as I am, I wasn’t absolutely certain what Die Endösung meant, although I could guess. Apparently it is German for ‘The End Loops’. Google Translate helpfully suggested that perhaps I meant Die Endlösung.

  8. Remember: there can be no rights without responsibilities. If you invoke a right, you imply a responsibility.

    That does not happen to be the case. That only applies to so-called “positive” rights, rights to be given something. With negative rights, like the right to use a public footpath, nobody has to provide the user with anything; it’s just that the user has the right to break through obstructions and others have no right to create obstructions.

    That is, “Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same philosophical coin. If you have the right to free political speech, then I and everybody else that lives here have the responsibility of allowing you that free speech.” is wrong. (Philosophically, the very profound difference relates to infinities and finite sets – you can only do a finite number of things but you can abstain from infinitely many – and in practice that comes back to questions of scarce resources, which is where we came in.) There is a large difference between NOT having a right to create obstructions and HAVING a responsibility of allowing things. The latter builds in an assumption, or at any rate a rebuttable presumption, that the default is a busybody with entitlement to interfere with you, who must exercise that responsibly – and that simply isn’t true, and furthermore encourages busybodies. I remember once informing a committee member of what I intended to do, as a courtesy so as not to disrupt his planning, and he had the impertinence to treat it as a request for his permission! I tactfully restated my intentions and left.

    The real question is then who has the responsibility.

    As I realised after my father pointed it out to me, any time someone comes up with a formulation like that, they are substituting a different question from the one people were actually asking – a bait and switch, whether deliberate or inadvertent. (Here, the bait and switch creates a default entitlement for would be busybodies.)

    In the light of that:-

    – “Young people have the right to a job!. Who will fund these jobs remains unknown.” is uncontentious, as a negative right, and the funding has nothing to do with that; it only matters to whether they will actually get jobs, not to whether they are being obstructed from them.

    – “Your Right to Time Off Work. Meaning that if you are an employer, you must pay for people not to work for you.” It means no such thing. As a negative right, it just means unpaid leave, and not necessarily at the time of the employees’ own choosing either.

    And so on, with similar things applying to most of the other points (where they are not mere emotional outpourings like “Good grief!”). This posting has been a no doubt inadvertent bait and switch.

  9. @ Briggs: A responsibility does not have to mean taking an action, it can mean not taking one.

    And to piggyback on what P.M. Lawrence said, that is the beauty of our constitution. It confers no rights, but rather vests the federal government with the job of protecting them and forbids that same government from trampling them.

    The rights the founders acknowledged are God-given rights recognized in natural law, and they are negative, meaning no one owes me anything other than to leave me be.

  10. I agree that rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin. I would think that a person alone on a dessert island could have neither rights nor responsibilities. Rights and responsibilities constitute the agreed rules of a society for managing conflicts. Talk of rights and responsibilities is redundant if there is no conflict. According to this view, singing in the bath in an apartment would not be a right until your neighbor tries to stop you doing so, and you are granted permission to sing by the residents association, perhaps with the accompanying responsibility not to do so at 2 o’clock in the morning. I therefore don’t think that anyone can have a ‘right’ of access to food/clean water/the internet unless someone else is actively preventing it.

    The agreed rules of society are mainly embodied in the law, i.e. the constitution and the whole cascade of secondary legislation, local laws etc derived from it. However, the law can never be perfect. Although the law in a democracy should ideally reflect the wishes of the electorate, it cannot fully do so as the electorate never has a single, stable viewpoint, and the law lags behind due to the time needed to change the law. Moreover, in addition, there are also the smaller social rights and responsibilities that are not regulated by law but by social norms and customs, such as good manners.

    On a point of detail, Briggs said: Thus, “governments” cannot have a responsibility because these are fictions, they are groupings and gatherings of men. The burden is always to identify which men have the responsibility.

    Is it not the case that governments etc are “legal persons” with rights and responsibilities before the law just as “natural persons”?

  11. “The rights the founders acknowledged are God-given rights recognized in natural law”: of course they weren’t. They were the ordinary rights of Britons of the time, but a bunch of rebels could hardly say that so they had their chief propagandist write a flowery sales pitch.

  12. It is ASSUMED that people will act in what they percieve as their own best interest. Sometimes their interest includes physically assaulting others or defrauding others. Governments pass and enforce laws prohibiting physical assault and fraud.

    From the point of the US bill of rights, all rights are really restrictions on government powers. For example, the first amendment prohibits the government from passing laws restricting freedom of political speech or restricting religious beliefs, and allowing for a free press. The government doesn’t PAY for the press or pay for a place of worship, it’s prohibited from passing laws RESTRICTING same.

    Even the 6th amendment, giving a right to a speedy trial by jury, is really a restriction on
    the government’s ability to prosecute and convict without the defendant’s input in insuring an impartial jury.

    Any list of “rights”, like the ones given above, like the right to health care, a living wage, etc- show a shocking ignorance on the meaning of “rights”.

  13. Have you ever sit beside an obese on a plane? I would personnally give them three seats for the price of one.

  14. Rights & privileges. The list consists of privileges not rights. Not that classifying them correctly means that they can be entirely disregarded, but it does make discussion about their nature much clearer.

  15. While I don’t disagree with your point, it would help if your evidence fully supported your conclusion!

    I read as far as item 3 – “People Have A Right To Access Their Own Genetic Information. Testing is expensive. Who pays?” Did you read the link? The government isn’t proposing that you have a right to free testing. The government is proposing that you don’t have a right to know your own genome (even if you pay for the testing yourself) except under the supervision of a doctor. You need to be protected from yourself of course.

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