Rights vs Duty

I have often heard, more so among Americans who hold their constitution dear, that they have certain inalienable rights endowed to them by their creator and therefore no government can infringe upon them.

Chief among these rights is the right to free speech and freedom of religion.

Now I’ve been thinking about the concept of rights and natural law lately and I find something extremely uncomfortable about the American constitution and rights in general.

Firstly I find that the concept of rights encourages a sense of entitlement among people, something that I would not consider to be a virtuous trait.

Secondly I’m not even sure it is true. As the second commandment tells us, we are not to use the Lord’s name in vain. I find this flatly contradicts this supposed right of free speech. God commands us to not speak freely as it were.

Now I’m looking at this from a Catholic perspective and I think the proper framework for these ideas is duty.

For instance, you have a duty to speak truthfully, regardless of the consequences.

Another example would be about the right to bear arms. I would frame this as you have a duty to protect your family and your homeland with whatever force necessary.

The reason for framing these things as duties is twofold, as alluded to earlier. For one it removes the sense of entitlement and encourages virtue in your speech and action if you are duty bound.

Secondly, framing these as duties removes the idea that you can be prevented from doing so by government. These are the tasks that God has given you, and you are to fulfill these tasks regardless of the consequences, which means ignoring any laws that would prevent you from doing so.

A just government will assit you in your duties, and an unjust one will impede you.

I think the idea of rights should be scrapped and replaced by the framework of duty.

Any thoughts?


I think for most Americans/Canadians (I include Canadians because they are basically the same) they feel as if they do not have an “option” when you use the word “duty”

example they have a right to free speech, so as you said they can say whatever garbage comes to mind and people can complain about that with whatever cringe rebuttal they wish to use. But when you say “duty” oh my… that takes the option out of it, now you HAVE to speak honestly and with purpose…

We have free will, but as we know it is how we use that will…

A frame work of duty sounds like a perfectly viable option, but those duties have to be practiced and acted upon now, by us. It won’t take long anyway for the American empire to fall… something else will have to take its place.

And on American’s inalienable rights and freedoms, what is American Freedom if not another place to shop?

A “right” is just a construct. It’s essentially a deal whereby a government grants certain freedoms in exchange for compliance.

These are certainly not “inalienable” and are not granted by God. It’s true that God sets up government authority to “keep peace” but it does not follow that my “right” to own guns is therefore granted by Him.

Also governments tend to revoke these “inalienable” rights as they take more control, no matter what the charter or constitution says. Eventually it takes a rebellion or coup to re-establish these “rights”.

I would not conflate this tension with the concept of “duty”. A personal responsibility is different than the concept of “rights” which is just a contract between citizens and government. A “duty” is a moral obligation on the personal level.

Thats a good point too, a “right” is just a perspective, its whatever the talk show hosts tell the people they want… similar to this abortion issue.