Rights and Responsibilities: The Intergenerational Covenant

Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, Vol. 28, No. 2, June 2012, pp. 113–117

Posted: 2 Aug 2013

See all articles by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni

The George Washington University

Laura Brodbeck

George Washington University

Date Written: March 16, 2012

Abstract

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

Etzioni, Amitai and Brodbeck, Laura, Rights and Responsibilities: The Intergenerational Covenant (March 16, 2012). Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, Vol. 28, No. 2, June 2012, pp. 113–117. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2274376

Amitai Etzioni (Contact Author)

The George Washington University ( email )

2100 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Suite 4058
Washington, DC 20037
United States

Laura Brodbeck

George Washington University

2121 I Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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