Tag Archives: rights

A Reevaluation of Social Responsibility

There are many facets to social responsibility, and it appears to me that many people confuse the social aspects and the responsibility aspects. Merely advocating for social programs without applying a sense of responsibility is dangerous to society however well-intentioned the program might be. After reading other’s thoughts on social responsibility, I find that my views have not changed much, if at all.

American society is guided by rights and responsibilities as enumerated in the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights with the Declaration of independence setting the foundation. As we approach domestic national policies, we should always refer to these documents to guide our actions. In addition, when thinking or acting globally, we should also consider the rights and responsibilities that we enjoy as American citizens and apply them graciously to those abroad.

Domestically, race relations seems to be a continual problem (Banton, 2002). If the approach to this problem simply referred to the founding documents, we would not have furthered the social inequalities by introducing civil rights and affirmative action:

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967;
  • Air Carriers Access Act of 1989;
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990;
  • Architectural Barriers Act of 1968;
  • Civil Rights Act of 1866;
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991;
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963;
  • Exec. Order No. 11246, 1965;
  • Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988;
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

It has been argued, according to Fullinwider (1980), that adoption of affirmative action through the legislation of civil rights creates reverse discrimination, or a propensity to overcompensate discriminating against one subset of people by discriminating against another – usually the subset that was perceived to have benefit from the original discrimination. I do admit that the legislation, the public opinion and practices, and the judicial review do not aim to promote inequalities, but as a mere accident, they do. The solution should have been very simple: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 1776). By incorporating the virtues that this country was founded upon, there is only one reasonable and responsible expectation of the people within society, and that is to treat all people with respect and dignity. This is my view of how to be socially responsible. Walters (2002) echoes my position and writes:

What is personal social responsibility? Someone who is socially responsible, more often than not, recognizes that his behavior affects others, and holds himself accountable for his actions. The opposite may be someone who automatically blames an external source for his or her troubles, or whose behavior might consistently be perceived by others to be inconsiderate or rude. In a best-case scenario, a socially responsible person endeavors to have a positive effect on others, and enriches her environs. Such a person has the intention and takes action to ensure that his or her behavior makes a positive contribution, or at least is neutral and doesn’t “pollute” others or the social (or actual) atmosphere. (para. 2)

Additionally, there has been much discussion about our society’s role on the global level. What responsibilities do Americans have towards their global partners? No matter if we are discussing local issues, statewide or national issues, or international issues, my response remains the same: so long as you do not infringe on the rights of others, do as you will. This concept is what I believe to be the only logical conclusion when considering the sum of American societal values and responsibilities.

As mentioned, social responsibility can describe both active or passive roles. Civic engagement, on the other hand, is simply being socially active, though not necessarily responsible. Civic engagement, according to Michael Carpini (2010) of the Pew Charitable Trusts, is defined as “individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern” (para. 2). These actions, typically honorable and ethical, may cause what I refer to as collateral damage. A good example of this is going green. Many of us appreciate the planet and want no harm to come to our environment, so some have advocated outlawing the use of Edison-type incandescent light bulbs, favoring compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). In fact, as of 2014, all incandescent light bulbs will be outlawed in the United States (Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007). According to the EnergyStar website (“LightBulbs,” n.d.):

If every American home replaced just one light with a light that’s earned the ENERGY STAR[, or compact fluorescent light bulb], we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars. (para. 1)

Sounds great, but what of the mercury? CFLs rely on a mercury vapor (in addition to argon) within the fluorescent tube, so if the bulb were to break, which they often do, mercury would leak into our environment. Mercury is not poisonous, right? Wrong! The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (2001) recommends an 8-hour time-weighted limit of exposure maximum of 0.025 mg/m3 (or, 25,000 ng/m3). According to a study by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (2008):

Mercury concentration in the study room air often exceeds the Maine Ambient Air Guideline (MAAG) of 300 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) for some period of time, with short excursions over 25,000 ng/m3, sometimes over 50,000 ng/m3, and possibly over 100,000 ng/m3 from the breakage of a single compact fluorescent lamp. (p. 7)

Many lighting fixtures, including chandeliers, can hold three, four, or more of these bulbs at a time, multiplying the mercury vapor concentration for each bulb broken. This legislation creates a hazardous situation that needlessly endangers lives and restricts our freedom to choose.

In conclusion, we as a society must understand that there are consequences to our actions, and we must take responsibility for our actions. We can certainly have disdain for the status quo as well as envision a Utopian civilization where there is no bad and only good. Unfortunately, we are bound by our physicality and our geography. So long as we must obey the laws of physics, we must understand that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What, then, are the consequences of civic engagement? Honestly, there may be no negative consequence of activism so long as the activist remains socially responsible. The socially responsible person will ensure that the positive of action will outweigh the negative of inaction so long as the negative of action does not contribute to the negative of inaction. More simply stated, if it will hurt society more to change, then change is not the answer.


Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (West 1968)

Air Carriers Access Act of 1989, 49 U.S.C. § 1374 (c) (West 1986).

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C.A. § 12101 et seq. (West 1993).

Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4151 et seq. (West 1968).

Banton, M. (2002). Race relations. In D. T. Goldberg & J. Solomos (Eds.), A companion to racial and ethnic studies (pp. 90-96). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Carpini, M. D. (2010). Civic engagement. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/education/ undergrad/civic-engagement.aspx

Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1982 (a) (West 1998).

Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 (a) et seq. (West 1998).

Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) (b) (3) (West Supp. 1992).

Declaration of Independence. (1776).

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2001). Documentation of the threshold limit values and biological exposure indices (7th ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Author.

Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, P.L. 110–140 § 321 (2007, December 19).

Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206 (West 2000).

Exec. Order No. 11246, 3 C.F.R. 339 (1964-1965), reprinted in 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e app. at 28-31 (1982).

Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 (West Supp. 1989).

Fullinwider, R. K. (1980). The reverse discrimination controversy. A moral and legal analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED292213

Light bulbs (CFLs) for Consumers. (n.d.). Retrieved from the EnergyStar website: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup& pgw_code=LB

Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (West 1998).

Walters, J. (2002, August). Taking social responsibility personally – Be the change you wish to see in the world. Retrieved from http://www.learningplaceonline.com/workplace/ethics/ personally.htm

Freedom vs. Health Care Reform

In the United States, we believe in individual rights, some of which are enumerated in the U. S. Constitution. The right to health care is not one of these. As our country prospers or declines, we may amend our Constitution to ensure more rights or take them away. The question, now, is can we afford health care for all? At this moment, I believe we cannot. Other countries have attempted to provide health care for all of its citizens but are facing economic troubles in spite of 70% tax rates (Clark & Dilnot, 2002). I believe that high tax rates are dangerous to the economy because the people and the government compete in mobilizing the economy; whereas with lower tax rates, the small businesses can drive the economy (U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy, 2006).

It is my experience that those who overutilize health care are those who are under-insured (e.g. Medicare and Medicaid) and uneducated about the health care system. Further, it seems that the underpayment of costs by the Medicare and Medicaid programs are driving up the recoverable costs to other payors (Brennan & Mello, 2009). This is why I believe that our health care system is as expensive and inefficient as it is. “The U.S. health care system also spends more on administrative or overhead costs related to health care,” says Garber and Skinner (2008, p. 32), but they attribute this to administrative waste where I conclude that the over-administration is needed to meet the demands of an over-regulated and inefficient payment system.

In conclusion, our health care system is linked to our economy, and improving the economy is the only way to ensure that our health care system improves. By adding entitlements, we are forcing the American people to minimize their financial growth and, thereby, their financial freedom to choose affordable health care.


Brennan, T. A. & Mello, M. M. (2009). Incremental health care reform. Journal of the American Medical Association, 301(17), 1814-1816. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.610

Clark, T. & Dilnot, A. (2002). Long-term trends in British taxation and spending (IFS Briefing Note No. 25). London, UK: The Institute for Fiscal Studies. Retrieved from http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn25.pdf

Garber, A. M. & Skinner, J. (2008). Is American health care uniquely inefficient? Journal of Economic Perspective, 22(4), 27–50. doi:10.1257/jep.22.4.27.

U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Advocacy. (2006, September 28). Small business drives the U.S. economy — represent 99.7 percent of all businesses, employ 57.4 million (SBA No. 06-17 ADVO). Retrieved from http://www.sba.gov/advo/press/06-17.html

Disregarding the Second Amendment

The Socio-political Consequences and a Libertarian Solution

Americans, as citizens of the republic, have rights that transcend any government. These rights ensure the continuing operation and stability of the republic. Our founding fathers outlined these rights conspicuously after thoughtfully debating the specific wording that should be used. Though times change, these freedoms should not. Most Americans accept that with these freedoms come social responsibility, and I will delineate how this relationship can be maintained without the use of specific anti-gun legislation. The current opinions surrounding gun control range from desires to ban all privately owned firearms to disallowing any government (Federal, State, County, or municipal) from placing any controls on the citizens’ ability to own, possess, carry, control, and use firearms. On the other hand, some people are willing to accept a compromise of terms. There are socio-political consequences for each of the various levels of proposed gun control in the United States, including impacts on the U.S. Constitution and the Constitutions of the fifty States.

The anti-gun coalitions dispute the claims that crime rates soar when gun bans are put in effect, and admittedly, the correlation does nothing to prove causation, yet, a sober analysis of the matter reveals confirmation that the claim is, in fact, valid. Following the 1997 gun ban (Firearms Act, 1997), Great Britain suffered the highest crime rates in Europe, specifically domestic burglary, the forceful entering of residential premises. A Home Office report shows that violent crimes increased steadily by 26% over the next 5 years (2004). Johnston reports, “Britain has one of the worst crime rates in Europe…. It is the most burgled country in Europe, has the highest level of assaults and above average rates of car theft, robbery and pickpocketing” (2007, para. 1). In fact, the violent crime rate continues to grow 77% through 2006. Japanese crime rates increase dramatically 128% during the years 1997 to 2001, after adopting similar firearms legislation. The same phenomena was seen in Australia with robberies increasing 44% after a similar gun ban. Interestingly, the authorities in New Zealand found it difficult and cumbersome to enforce the Australian ban and they abandoned the effort. The crime rates in New Zealand decreased dramatically (robbery: 18% decrease, domestic burglary: 27% decrease). Unfortunately, after a rejuvenation of the gun ban in 2000, the report reflects an 8% overall increase in violent crimes (Home Office, 2004). Unfortunately, the research is still lacking.

Another component of the gun control debate in the United States is the consideration that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution refers not to individuals, but to State and Federal sponsored militias. Though the U.S. Supreme Court (District of Columbia v. Heller, 2007) has recently ruled that the Amendment proscribes an individual right, this is not a new opinion. A search through documentation of the Constitutional Conventions (Elliot, 1836; Ford, 1888) and previous Supreme Court decisions (United States v. Cruikshank, 1876; United States v. Miller, 1939) shows a consistent viewpoint, the Second Amendment refers to an individual right to bear arms. There certainly has been some confusion regarding the interpretation of this Amendment (Miller v. Texas, 1894; United States v. Cruikshank, 1876), but most of the experts now concede the individual rights interpretation.

Proponents of gun control have also sought to ban weapons described as assault weapons. The position of The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (http://www.bradycampaign.org) on assault weapons:

The Brady Campaign supports banning military-style semi-automatic assault weapons along with high-capacity ammunition magazines. These dangerous weapons have no sporting or civilian use. Their combat features are appropriate to military, not civilian, contexts. (n.d., Position section)

Here many gun control advocates erroneously cite United States v. Miller (1939) as limiting the civilian ownership of military-style weapons. Justice McReynolds, in his opinion, states, “Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment, or that its use could contribute to the common defense” (p. 6). This ruling is problematic. Miller and his co-defendant were not represented by counsel, and before the proceedings took place, Miller was murdered (Aultice, 1990). With these issues in mind, the opinion was based on a lack of evidence that a sawed-off shotgun could be used as ordinary military equipment. An argument could have been made that might have impacted Justice McReynolds’ opinion. During the Civil War, Confederate cavalrymen regularly employed the sawed-off shotgun against the Union cavalry, and during World War I, American soldiers in Europe used short-barreled shotguns regularly to clear trenches (GlobalSecurity.org, n.d.). Had this argument been offered, perhaps the opinion would have been different. As Aultice (1990) writes, “by default it is acceptable to own weapons with a ‘reasonable relationship’ to the preservation of the militia, and nothing so fits the description as those creatures of their own distorted imagination, the so-called ‘assault weapons’!” (Viewpoint section, para. 1). During debates, the proponents of gun control find themselves requiring a different argument in the face of this.

Gun control advocates ask a fairly simple, though outlandish, question: Where does it end? The gun control advocates are simply asking if there is a boundary to the militaristic weaponry that a civilian should be able to possess. I have to agree that this is an excellent question to ask. When exercising our rights, it is important to understand the social responsibility that must be exercised. I, and most firearms enthusiasts, concede that it would be troublesome for the citizenry to possess weapons of mass destruction. Where is the line? Libertarian principles dictate that no law should preempt freedom so long as the exercise of that freedom does not interfere with the rights of a third-party. Block and Block (2000) developed a theory based on geography and spatial relationships. They describe a constant where, as long as the weapon can be used defensively and the effect of the weapon can be isolated to the user and the target, the spatial relationship must fall between two extremes: (a) proportionally using the entire universe and (b) proportionally in a crowded phone booth. These are obviously not realistic situations, but the theory must transcend the boundaries of reality in order to prove all-encompassing. In the case that a population is spread over the entire universe, it would be acceptable for each person to have nuclear weapons for defensive use. On the other hand, in the latter scenario, perhaps only a small knife would be acceptable. To draw this theory back into the realm of reality, consider the spatial population differences between a highly populated city where a handgun would be acceptable, but a high-powered rifle may not be safe. Also, consider the population density of the many rural areas in the United States. In these areas, it might be plausible to own and use a tank, bazooka, and machine gun without fear of infringing on the rights of some third-party. This theory creates a direct relationship with the destructive power of the weapon and the likelihood of impacting an innocent person. Perhaps, this is the commonsense gun control that the gun control advocates are searching for. It appears that gun control advocates would like to remove the rights of the people instead of holding the individual responsible for committing crimes. As I believe, the right is certainly an individual right, and the responsibilities are also individual responsibilities. Using this theory as the predominant philosophy of responsible gun ownership would limit the need of any further legislation, as we already have laws enacted which seek to protect the public from endangerment; punishing the criminal, not the victim.

Is this theory realistic? What are the chances of its actually being considered? Ultimately, what is at stake here is the continuation of our government as we know it. Our founding fathers developed the U.S. Constitution in such a specific way as to protect ourselves from ourselves. Politicians with Socialistic views, though motivated with good intentions, could certainly lay a legislative foundation enabling future politicians to create a totalitarian regime, controlling the populace in the future with no fear of a reprisal by an armed citizenry (Savelsberg, 2002). We must keep this possibility in the front of our minds as we discuss and debate the focus and depth of the Second Amendment. Admittedly, there is a public safety component to the debate (Winkler, 2007, p. 727). On the one hand, it appears that large urban areas are fraught with gun violence. On the other hand, as Rand’s (1994) report shows, handguns are used in 17% of violent crimes in the U.S., and defending one’s self with a firearm reduces the likelihood of victim injury by more than 40%. Rand continues to show that guns are used in defense against violent crimes over 60,000 times annually. Firearm ownership is an absolute fiber in the fabric of American society, for the defense of self, State, and Country. We should approach this topic with care and knowledge. Although firearm issues may seem of concern to only a small group of Americans, it should, in fact, concern anyone who cares about the Constitution of the United States and the American way of life.


Aultice, P. L. (1990). United States vs Miller Court Opinion and Documents. Retrieved from http://rkba.org/research/miller/Miller.html

Block, W. & Block, M. (2000, October). Toward a universal libertarian theory of gun (weapon) control: a spatial and geographical analysis. Ethics, Place & Environment, 3(3), 289-298.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. (n.d.). Military-style assault weapons. Retrieved from http://www.bradycampaign.org/legislation/msassaultweapons

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 290 (2007).

Elliott, J. (1836). The debates in the several State Conventions on the adoption of the Federal Constitution: June 14, 1788. Elliot’s Debates, 3, 365-410. Retrieved from http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwed.html

Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, c. 5 et seq. (1997).

Ford, P. L. (1888). An examination into the leading principles of the Federal Constitution proposed by the late Convention held at Philadelphia. With answers to the principal objections that have been raised against the system. By a citizen of America. Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States, published during its discussion by the people, 1787-1788, 25-65. Brooklyn, NY. Retrieved from http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/1670

GlobalSecurity.org. (n.d.). Shotguns. Retrieved from http://www.globalsecurity.org/military /systems/ground/shotgun.htm

Johnston, P. (2007, February 6). Britain tops European crime league. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1541699/Britain-tops-European-crime-league.html

Home Office, Research, Development, and Statistics Directorate. (2004, October 24). International comparisons of criminal justice statistics 2001. Retrieved from http://www.csdp.org/research/hosb1203.pdf

Miller v. Texas, 153 U.S. 535 (1894).

Rand, M. R. (1994, April). Bureau of Justice Statistics crime data brief: Guns and crime: Handgun victimization, firearm self-defense, and firearm theft (NCJ-147003 Rev. 2002, September 24). U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/ascii/hvfsdaft.txt

Savelsberg, J. J. (2002). Socialist Legal Traditions. Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. Retrieved from http://www.sage-ereference.com/crimepunishment/Article_n404.html

United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876).

United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939).

Winkler, A. (2007, February). Scrutinizing the Second Amendment. Michigan Law Review, 105(4), 683-733. Retrieved from http://www.michiganlawreview.org