What is the connection between rights, freedoms, and responsibility?
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Rights and freedoms are more or less the same thing. These two can often be in tension with responsibility. We have rights and freedoms to do whatever we want, but we also have a responsibility to act in ways that create a good community for ourselves and others to live in.
Rights and freedoms give us the ability to do more or less whatever we want. They tell us that we have few limits imposed on our behavior from the outside. With freedom, however, comes responsibility. We cannot have a good society if we all abuse our freedoms. Instead, it is important for us to act responsibly. For example, we should not use our freedoms in ways that annoy or harm other people.
In order to have a good community, we have to voluntarily give up some of our rights and freedoms. When we do this, we are acting in a responsible way.
The main rights of American citizens are spelled out in the Constitution's original Bill of Rights. The freedoms of religion and speech ensure Americans the right to worship as they choose and to develop their own belief systems. Additionally, freedom is extended to the press, which has the right to question the government openly. Citizens are permitted to assemble for a cause so long as no violence ensues and are also allowed to voice these views to their elected officials. The Second Amendment gives the right to keep and bear arms--to have firearms and to use them, if necessary. The Fifth Amendment addressed legal issues, including the right to the due process of law and freedom from self-incrimination. The Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Amendments expanded upon the Fifth, adding the rights to a speedy trial and to a trial by jury and freedom from "cruel and unusual" punishment, among others. The right to privacy first came up in the Ninth Amendment, which applies to implications brought about by "unlisted" rights.
Responsibilities as listed in the Constitution are mainly implicit. They broadly expect that individuals should follow the letter of the law, fulfill their tax obligations, serve in the military (if deemed necessary, by an act of war for instance) and appear for jury duty when called. While, according to The Constitution Online, an explicit list of duties expected of citizens under the Constitution does not exist, Everyday Civics classifies the aforementioned responsibilities as "civic duties" and that "citizens who choose not to fulfill [them] face legal consequences."Duties imply legal responsibilities in response to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Obligations imply moral responsibilities to the country and fellow citizens in response to having the privileges of citizenship.
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