Rights and Responsibilities: The Intergenerational Covenant
Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, Vol. 28, No. 2, June 2012, pp. 113–117
Posted: 2 Aug 2013
Date Written: March 16, 2012
Debates around pension policy are often couched in terms of rights, while corresponding responsibilities associated with these rights are often regarded as onerous and oppressive. This is an unsatisfactory basis for designing pension institutions, since rights cannot be sustained without responsibilities. Social commitments, such as the commitment implied in the Social Security Act, reflect an intergenerational covenant that must be protected by younger generations who will only see benefits if future generations remain committed to the same responsibilities. The contract between America and its elders is not a real-time contract but one in which carrying out one’s duties precedes collecting one’s entitlements. Each right lays a claim on someone; and if that person does not honour the responsibilities of that claim, there can be no regime of rights. In short, the design of pensions around rights requires the public authority to address their corresponding responsibilities.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation