I saw a protest sign yesterday that said "We all deserve a decent pension." Instantly my eye settled on the word "deserve", and I wondered who that message was intended for? Other protesters? People without decent pensions? Someone with enough money to fund decent pensions? If so, who?
Such a sign is useless unless it focuses us on how we should all fund decent pensions for each other.
A bill of rights is similarly aspirational. But, worse, simply listing all our needs merely creates a sense of entitlement. The list says nothing about the corresponding obligations that must be performed in order to satisfy those needs, and does not remind us that society as a whole shares those obligations.
Far better that we create a 'Bill of Duties' that commits all members of society to meet each other's basic needs. A Bill of Duties would act as a call to action, inspiring people to seize the initiative rather than the role of victim.
There was some notion of this in the background paper to the proposal for a British Bill of Rights and Duties, but casting rights purely in the form of duties would seem much more productive.
Having written this piece, I searched for an image to illustrate it and discovered that Deseret News has explored what a Bill of Duties might look like...
Image from from Deseret News.