6 thoughts on “Inquiry: On Rights and Privileges

  1. In urban society, one cannot survive without money. If society allows people to be unemployable, how can it complain that people will engage in criminal behavior to live?

  2. All good points, Douglas. One cannot survive without money in modern society. I’d question you further on what society might do that allows people to be unemployable. I’m not certain I quite understand your meaning. Thus far the burden has been placed on individuals to render themselves more employable, but within an increasingly narrow sphere of economic activity. The pressure intensity of that burden has been pretty phenomenal, and to my mind, unrealistic.

    It appears to me that the idea one has a right to be an entrepreneur seems fairly apparent and highly valued. The right to earn a paycheck has come under direct attack, and has been severely devalued in nearly every surviving economic sphere.

    I don’t think these two questions would have been difficult to answer in the mid-twentieth Century, certainly post WWII up to 1980. Moving past the first decade of the 21st, the answers to these questions are not as straightforward as I think they should be.

  3. The terms “right” and “paycheck” are discordant. A right is something bestowed upon us by a higher power or collectively recognized as an entitlement which requires nothing from the individual in return. You do not need to do anything to earn a “right.” However, a “paycheck” is something earned through the performance of a job function or service. So, the question as you ask it is unanswerable.

    Now, did you intend to ask “do Americans possess a right to a check?” In other words, “should Americans be paid to do nothing?” Those are questions that can be answered. My answer would be “no.” I don’t believe in rewarding indolence.

    In limited circumstances like physical or mental disabilities, I believe we as a society have an obligation to look after people. However, declaring money-for-nothing a universal right is unsustainable and will lead us down a path to societal collapse.

    Douglas asked: “If society allows people to be unemployable, how can it complain that people will engage in criminal behavior to live?” So, if I don’t have the money for my rent payment or to buy a meal, I have the right to take whatever I want from you? And, if you decide to resist me, do I have the right to take what I want by force?

  4. An interesting response, Roland. Much teasing out to be done. I disagree with your condition of rights which “requires nothing from the individual in return.” Natural Rights and the Bill of Rights don’t subscribe to that philosophy. Out of curiosity, how is it that you’ve come to that opinion – by which philosophical school? I ask because it appears to be a definition which assumes no liminal threshold to “rights” which in turn assumes “rights” can never be restrained. It also seems to suggest “rights” devoid of “responsibilities.”

    No, I didn’t intend to ask “Do Americans have a right to be paid for doing nothing?” But it is interesting that you should interpret it that way. I hadn’t considered a “paycheck” as anything other than income earned through wages. I’m not quite sure I follow your logic regarding money for doing nothing. To what idea(s) do you directly refer? Replacing minimum wage with a universal wage subsidy? A demogrant? Unemployment payments? Social Security? As to societal collapse – you’ve characterized it in the wrong tense. You should be using the past tense. This society has already collapsed from the weight of avarice and ambition.

    My second question was “Is livelihood in America a matter of privilege?” Would you answer it in the same way? Are “livelihood” and “privilege” discordant as well? Is earning a living in America a right or is livelihood a privilege? Given your distaste for indolence, are you implying that all Americans should be forced to work, required to work? Does it follow then, that Americans who are indolent don’t have a right to be indolent? You say you don’t believe in rewarding indolence, but the flip side of reward is punishment. Do you think the indolent should be punished for their indolence? Lots and lots of Americans get paid lots and lots for doing nothing or very little. It’s kinda how the whole private sector model works. I guess I need a little more clarification on what you consider doing ‘nothing’ means.

  5. Just trying to zero in on your precise question. So if I am mischaracterizing what a right is, please tell me, what is it that we Americans must do to earn our rights?

    If you asked the question exactly as you intended, my answer is: the only person with a right to a paycheck is that person who performs a job, provides a product or provides a service or any combination of the three.

    1. So, in your opinion, all Americans possess the right to earn a paycheck in exchange for performing a job, providing either a product or service or any combination of the three? Whose role is it to secure that right? To be clear, I don’t intend to ask: whose role is it to provide the paycheck? But rather, to secure the right to a paycheck.

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