Rights or Responsibility?

The word “rights” gets thrown around a lot these days. There's often a lack of focus on the other side of the “rights” coin – “responsibility”.

“I have a right to a good job.” (Really? How much responsibility do you have for earning that job? To be qualified for it? To dress nice, brush your teeth, and show up on time?)

“Everyone has the right to vacation.” (Is that true? How do you know it is true? Do some people have the right to more vacation than others? How much of your responsibility is it to ask for/negotiate your vacation?)

“We all have the right to health care coverage.” (Who is responsible for paying for it? The government? Who is that? Who is responsible for giving the government the money to pay for it?)

Rights and responsibilities. Not as simple as you might think.

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

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  • I think a lot of people don’t understand the distinction between rights and privileges that we as a society have decided we’re going to pay for for everyone.

    Rights are things like life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, control of one’s own property, etc. Nobody has to do anything to deliver rights — they just have to refrain from interfering with you.

    Jobs, vacation time, health care, etc., are privileges. If we as a society want everyone to have them, we can choose that, but we’re going to have to shoulder a bug burden to make it happen.

  • Kate

    I totally agree. The latest in the UK is apparently it’s awful that in the 21st Century when it’s cold we have to use a blanket to keep warm. Common sense I call it!

  • Clarke

    I’d change “responsibility” to “obligation”. If you’re born with the right to a job, who’s the person born at the same time with the obligation to provide it.

    If you have the right to health care, who was born with the obligation to furnish it and pay for it?

    We’ve been raising generations of lazy bums who think the world “owes” them who are willing to vote for any charlatan who comes along promising them a free ride at somebody else’s expense just because they have some special characteristic (or character defect) or a certain skin color.

    And there’s no shortage of pimps willing to exploit those “unfortunates” in order to fatten their own pocket-books.

    What we lack in our society is the right for able-bodied people to go hungry when they’re to cotton pickin’ lazy to get off of their backsides and be productive — and if they can’t “find” a job, just go out and create one.

    I have a friend who was an illegal alien when I met him (now returned to Mexico). His wife was also illegal — brought into the country by her mother when she was five years old. I helped him change his perspectives on life and following the rules of the law.

    White Amercians who know him well speak very highly of him and his character, his integrity, his willingness to work and produce. During the years he was preparing to return to Mexico, he was never without work more than a week — though local whites would complain about “can’t find a job”. He might take hard labor at lousy wages, but he persisted. In other cases, he made $12-14 per hour.

    I have another friend who had 35-40 illegals on his payroll. He couldn’t get Americans to work for him. When I asked what he was paying, it was 50% HIGHER than the typical wages at Home Depot! ($12-16 per hour).

    We need more people who want to run their own lives and succeed at it and a lot fewer looking for somebody else to bail them out of their own attitudes and stick a ham hock in their mouth.

    How fast would it change if unemployed were requred to clean parks and pick up trash every day and do other similar “menial” labor if they’re getting unemployment checks? We need to restore the principle that the idler doesn’t eat the bread, not wear the garments of the laborer.

    But when a politician promises to give to Paul at the expense of Peter, he can always count on the support of Paul.


  • Great article. We don’t have a right to any of that – just the right to go after it through our own efforts. I get real tired of people saying they have “rights” to things that other people earn.

  • Roger L Crain

    With rights comes responsibility. Right-on, Ray. Another that should raise a lot of eyebrows.

    Roger Crain

  • Patrick Lecouteulx

    You are extremely “right”.
    Living in France, I give my vote to our actual president, whose one of the main worry is to balance rights and obligations, or rights and duties.
    We all live in society and doing so, we’ve the obligations of our rights. Not to observe this rule leads to alter the rights of others…

  • Finally, a voice of reason. By trying to be everything to everyone, we cease to be anything for anyone. A lesson for entrepreneurs and the government.

  • In India these Human rights fellows have taken over Government in the guise of Rights without preaching responsibility.In mental health, these activists talk about rights to be mad only and donot care for associated responsibility towards society, parents, guardians, themselves.