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Rights and Responsibilities
By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

There has been growing talk on the internet and on television and radio that along with rights come responsibilities, but the only social responsibility an individual has with regard to his individual rights is not to violate the individual rights of others – to recognize the mutual rights of others as Thomas Jefferson put it. In other words, to have the freedom to live one’s life as if no one else but you own it and are responsible for it, and this is across the board. The growing concern that I have is that many people seem to want to bootstrap rights to a responsibility to others or to society such that those individual rights are no longer sacred and sacrosanct in one’s society – but the whole point of individual rights and governments and individual rights is to set one free of one’s neighbors – you live your life and I will live mine, and rights will be protected by a just government with individual rights as the standard-bearer of proper legal codes of laws. There is no such thing as buying your rights from others – no such thing as having your rights *only* if you also provide responsibilities to others. That is the exact opposite of the concept of individual rights – individuals ought to leave other individuals well enough alone unless he seeks to value them and trade with them on a value to value basis or have friendly interactions with him or to have a love affair with her, otherwise it is each man for himself or as Ayn Rand put it, the virtue of selfishness. One can certainly value others, if they are of benefit to oneself, but to do so otherwise is to be involved in a contradiction – that you must service others in the name of upholding your own individual rights, and I am strongly against this idea because it ties men to other men instead of leaving individuals free to live their own lives.

As an example, I have the right to free speech, and aside from violating the legal principles of libel or slander and copyrights and patents, I have the absolute right to say what I care to say, and seek to do so in a rational manner. To be consistent, I must respect the rights of others, including their rights to free speech on a forum that has permitted them to speak freely under the terms and conditions of that forum. I do not have the obligation to speak to them in a meaningful manner that they would force on me if I did not have the right to free speech. I can speak when I want to and not speak when don’t want to – and to say I have a responsibility to others in my speech (other than to speak the truth if I seek to build and audience) then I have no responsibility to others. But since I do want a reputation of an honest man, then I do have the responsibility to speak truthfully when I speak to others, but that is a chosen responsibility and not something society as a whole can impose upon me.

My concerns with this is that rights will only be permitted if and only if it fulfills an unchosen obligation to society when the whole purpose of the concept of individual rights is to free me from others as I live my own life by my own standards, and if this is violated then it basically comes down to compelled speech which is an oxymoron and self-contradictory – the only exception might be to be a witness to a crime (a violation of rights) since each man could be compelled to give his testimony in front of a court of law, but this must be done with high oversight else a man would be compelled to speak against his will and do damage to those he loves and seeks to protect.
And likewise with the other rights, like the right to property, where one cannot be compelled to do something with one’s property to the society in which he lives unless he signed a contract with he who he bought it from that said he must do X, Y, and Z in order to keep the property. The right to property includes not violating the property rights of others, like not throwing trash in their yard or otherwise harming their property by cutting down their trees because they are blocking one’s view.
In short, and in closing, be very suspicious of those who say rights or having your rights requires some obligations on your part other than to recognize the mutual rights of others. I think anything else is making you a slave of the society or to the state which is the opposite of individual rights.