Rights and duties
The concept of a right plays a crucial role in many of the moral arguments and moral claims invoked in business discussions.
employees argue that they have a right to equal pay for equal work;
managers assert that unions violate their right to manage;
nvestors complain that taxation violates their property rights;
consumers claim that they have a right to know.
In 1948, the United Nations adopted a „Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, which claimed that „all human beings” are entitled, among other things, to:
the right to own property alone as well as in association with others
the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, and to protection against unemployment
the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for [the worker] and his family an existence worthy of human dignity
the right to form and to join unions
the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holydays with pay The concept of a right and the correlative notion of duty lie at the heart of much of our moral discourse.
The concept of a right
In general, a right is an individual’s entitlement to something: a) to act in a certain way; b) to have others act in a certain way toward him or her. We should make an important distinction between:
1. Legal rights: The entitlement to something derive from a legal system that permits or empowers the person to act in a specified way or that requires others to act in certain ways toward that person; legal rights are limited to the particular jurisdiction within which the legal system is in force. 2. Moral rights: Entitlements derive from a system of moral standards independently of any particular legal system; such moral or human rights are based on moral norms and principles that specify that all human beings are permitted or empowered to do something or are entitled to have something done for them. Unlike legal rights, moral rights are usually thought of as being universal, not limited to a particular jurisdiction. We use the term right to cover a variety of situations in which individuals are enabled to choose freely whether to pursue certain interests or activities:
The absence of prohibitions against pursuing some interest or activity. I have a right to do whatever the law or morality does not positively forbid me to do. In this weak sense of a right, the enabling and protective aspects are minimal.
A person is authorized or empowered to do something either to secure the interests of others or to secure one’s interests. An army or police officer acquires legal rights of command over subordinates that enable the officer to pursue the security of others, whereas a property owner acquires legal property rights that enable doing as the owner wishes with the property.
The existence of prohibitions or requirements on others that enable the individual to pursue certain interests or activities. Our Constitution gives citizens the right to free speech because it contains a prohibition against government limits on speech. Our legal system also gives citizens the right to an education because the law contains a requirement that the Romanian State must provide free public education for all its citizens. The most important moral rights are rights that impose prohibitions or requirements on others and that thereby enable individuals to choose freely whether to pursue certain interests or activities. Moral rights
These kinds of moral rights have three important features that define these enabling and protective functions.
1. Moral rights are tightly correlated with duties. To have a moral right necessarily implies that others have certain duties toward the bearer of that right. My moral right to worship as I choose can be defined in terms of the moral duties other people have not to interfere in my chosen form of worship. The moral right to a suitable standard of...
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