Individual Rights Versus Social Responsibility Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

individual rights vs. social responsibility. The writer discusses individual rights and what they mean. Then there is a discussion about how they interact and affect an individual's social responsibility. There were four sources used to complete this paper.


America affords its residents some of the most liberal rights on earth. Individual rights are what this nation was built on and it is what it continues to promote today. America's insistence on the protection and promotion of individual rights is what makes millions of immigrants flock to its shores each year to begin a new life here. America is also known for having a strong sense of social responsibility. The nation sends money to other nations in need and has worked hard to rebuld nations that it has destroyed in wars. There is no question that the United States provides individual rights to each person who lives here, and social responsibility duties to the rest of the world but how much social responsibility should the American individual have? Americans are by and large very self involved. The past 250 years have provided them with the idea that their individual wants and desires supersede any social need. As the nation faces new troubles, such as terrorism attacks, a slumping economy and other problems it is becoming important to blend the individual rights with a duty to recognize and act on social responsibility. If Americans do not begin to spend more time on social responsibility the nation faces the possibility of having to fight for individuals rights.


America's Founding Fathers swept away centuries of tradition in which the individual had been subservient to the collective - to family, community, or nation. The Founders held that to protect human life and human progress in society, the individual must be sovereign. They held that each individual has an objective right to his own life and his own happiness - including the right to his property, without which no other rights are possible. They held that individual rights are inalienable, that is, that no force on earth - no monarch, no parliament, no mob or legislative minority - could rightfully violate them (Bowden, 1998)."

This is the importance of human individual rights. The right to live peacefully and to pursue happiness is given to each and every person who resides within the boundaries of America. This right is so protected that the Supreme Court is charged with the decision in each case to know if the rights of an individual have been violated or not. If a federal or state government body tries to enact a law that infringes on individual rights the Supreme Court will intervene and stop the law. This is what the nation has been built on and it is what is upheld at the cost and exclusion of all else.

Recently there have been many discussions about social responsibility and how much each individual should get involved. Social responsibility can dove tail with the rights of individuals but it can also interfere with individual rights. The question then becomes how much individual right should one give up, if any, in the name of social responsibility.

Few people remember that the Supreme Court once protected property rights, e.g., a company's right to pay workers any wage they voluntarily accept, or its right to function without a state license - even though they are not concretely listed in the Constitution (Bowden, 1998). The court used to understand the principle of individual rights. Now, however, the court allows lawmakers to exercise virtually unlimited power over production, employment and trade (Bowden, 1998)." And the Supreme court now deals with the rights of individuals.

Rights of an individual can include any venue, topic, or need in life. As long as it does not violate the rights of others then the rights will be protected by al courts in the land. The decision to give up some individual rights for the sake of social responsibility is a decision each person has to make for him or her self. While it is an individual decision it will have an effect on the whole picture. If each individual refuses to take part in social responsibility there may come a time where the nation faces some problems that are not going to allow the continuation of individual rights.

Corporations are charged with recognizing their social responsibility all the time (Guenther, 1998). They are dragged through the media if they are found to be hurting the environment or doing things that will hurt society in general.

The difference between individual rights and social responsibility is who it affects. Individual rights are only going to affect the person who has them or those within their immediate circle of friends and family. Social responsibility is the understanding of the greater good. The actions of an individual that will not directly affect them or their loved ones, but will instead be a part of affecting the entire society.

Social responsibility can be things such as volunteer work, or charity donations. It might also mean the whistle blowing when one sees something that will adversely affect the environment even if it would not have a negative impact for many years to come. It is the action today for the good of tomorrow. It is what people worry about leaving their children and grandchildren and it is something that takes strength and conviction.

Individual rights involve immediate gratification with little concern for how one's actions will affect the world either immediately or in the future. Things such as littering, hunting, polluting and other actions that can be taken by an individual ignore the greater good and the social responsibility.

The consequence of ignoring one's social responsibility for the sake of individual rights will be costly (Kammer, 2001). If each person decides to only worry about their own needs and the needs of their immediate family there will be no one to volunteer. The entire world is dependent on the individual's decision to accept their part of social responsibility. It is actually an individual responsibly to do so. Whether one spends time rocking babies in a hospital, or travels the world saving the rain forest it is vital that each individual choose something to do that will benefit people they will never meet. The need for social responsibility action is going to have to be placed higher on the priority list than many individual rights are. If the world turns its back on the future and concentrates only on instant gratification the world may find that it has destroyed itself and this knowledge may come to late to do anything about it.

One of the best ways to begin to change the way the world is going is to start teaching children that social responsibility is an individual right. If children are taught to be proud of their duty to the world and begin to incorporate that idea into their everyday life by the time several generations have come to pass the individual rights will include the right to participate in activities that will satisfy social responsibility.

Social responsibility does not just pertain to the environment or feeding the hungry. Social responsibility also extends to the belief that each person owes it to the society that they live in not to get into trouble. While individual rights are vital to the structure and survival of this nation they have to be tempered with good sense. One who believes their individual rights means that they can cause harm to others is not bearing their share of social responsibility.

Not committing crimes is the first step to understanding social responsibility (Schmalleger). If one robs a store they may believe that they are entitled to the cash, and they may convince themselves that the stores can…

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