As Americans, we love to make appeals to rights. Both the left and right usually center their arguments around rights- the left harps on having rights to welfare, marriage, abortion, etc., while the right harps on economics rights, religious rights, gun rights, etc. In large part, it is encouraging that there is a general agreement in this country that freedom is good, even if some people seem to have a warped view of what it means to be free (hint: it’s the people who advocate legislating away our liberties in the name of “improving” society).
What gets less attention though, is that that with freedom comes responsibilities.
Both sides are guilty of overlooking this. The left says people have a right to social welfare. Under our laws, they are right. If a person qualifies, they have a right to collect benefits. But what the left often forgets is that people collecting welfare have a responsibility to use the money wisely and to not use any more than is needed. Basically, don’t milk the system. Americans are more than willing to help those who truly need it, but this charity must not be abused. This is why work requirements for welfare are a good idea. They (at least in theory) insure that those receiving aid engage in productive behavior. Some on the left argue that making people work for their money is basically slavery, but if that is true we need another Lincoln because we have a lot of slaves that need freeing.
The right is often just as guilty of forgetting about the responsibilities that come with rights. While many conservatives are good people, often Christians who wish to live a moral life, the recent rhetoric of the right often is unsettling. Talk of makers vs. takers is harsh, and not everyone on public assistance is a lazy cheat. Paul Ryan recently talked about this issue of rhetoric and is now trying to avoid it in his new mission to help the poor using conservative principals of small government and free markets. The point here is that if conservatives wish to live in a free country with a small burden of government, we must be willing to step up to the plate and help those in need through civil society. Even Glenn Beck agrees with this point, saying that if we don’t want government to try and help the needy, we as free citizens must do it through charities and the “little platoons” of a voluntary civil society. God knows we do a better job than government anyway.