Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Right to Responsiblity

In a country built on freedom, it amazes me how often people confuse the difference between a right and a privilege.

According to a report by CNN a few days ago, the United States lingers behind European countries in term of, in CNN’s words, “workers rights.” Two of these so-called rights enumerated by CNN are paid vacation and paid maternity leave. Let me get one thing straight: getting paid for work you don’t do is not—repeat IS NOT—a right. Workers, international or otherwise, have no more of an entitlement to getting paid for doing nothing than firms have a right to make their employees work without paying them. Getting something for time you don’t work is a privilege that must be earned.

No doubt proponents of Europe’s “rights” claim that denying these people payment is a form of penalizing them. “Why should someone be punished for having a child?” But you could ask the same of the company that has to pay Jane a steady salary even though she’s not helping them make that money. Or of her co-workers that have to pick up the slack in her absence but can’t get paid more because the company has to pay Jane instead. Why should the business and her co-workers be punished for her pregnancy? Are we really willing to say that some people—like families—are more deserving than others? Like a vacation, having a baby can be very nice but there are costs to nice things. Paying them is called responsibility.

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