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Chapter 05: What happened to individual responsibility?

Individual Responsibility:

What wrong & how to fix it

“People tend to forget their duties but remember their rights.” —Indira Gandhi, prime minister of India

 “If the American people are no damn good, then no matter how well the Constitution is written, how well we’re governed, or how much good fortune comes our way, we are doomed as a nation.” —Columnist John Hawkins

What’s wrong with individual responsibility in America?

  • Individual irresponsibility. Too many Americans feel they are entitled: entitled to rights without responsibilities, entitled to compensation beyond what they’ve really earned, entitled to benefits without contributing, and entitled to free health care without taking care of their own health. (See the chapter titled “Health Care” for more about that last point.)
  • Reckless personal spending. When America thrived, it was partly because earlier generations earned more than they spent and therefore had savings to invest. Politicians and Wall Street made it too easy for people to borrow against the equity in their homes so they could live far beyond their means. When the inevitable crash came, working people not only lost their homes, as taxpayers they also got stuck with the bill for government bailouts.
  • Disregard for the rights of others. The “me” generation doesn’t seem to care about others; it’s all about them. These are the people who take advantage of their customers, abuse positions of public trust for their own profit, cheat on their taxes, live beyond their means, text while driving, spend more than they should on recreational drugs or showy cars or fancy name brands, toss their cigarette butts out the car window, toss trash into the back of their pickup trucks knowing it will blow out and litter our highways, put superwide or supertall tires on their vehicles so they spray pebbles and other debris all over the cars unfortunate enough to be behind them, rig their motorcycles to make obscene amounts of noise, turn the stereo volume so high they damage the hearing of anybody nearby, put other lives at risk by disregarding speed limits, keep vicious pit bulls without proper containment, and carry on loud cell phone conversations in public places—just to name a few. (Okay, I admit it: I’m a curmudgeon!)
  • Adult dependency. Children are dependent on their parents, but they are supposed to eventually grow into responsible and independent adults. Too few are making the transition. Too many of us depend on a company for our career progress, depend on schools to determine the values and education of our children, depend on doctors and drugs for our physical fitness, and depend on the government to provide for all other needs.
  • Lazy citizenship. Too many voters fall for the demagoguery, false promises, class warfare, and sound bites of our politicians. Voters would rather be entertained than take the time to participate in—and help preserve—our free society.

How to restore individual responsibility

  • Respect for the rights of others. When I was a child, my Dad taught me that “your freedom ends where the other guy’s nose begins.” In other words, I should be careful that my choices don’t harm others. If we all lived by this simple rule, many of our laws wouldn’t be necessary. (See the related “Civility” chapter.)
  • Individual responsibility. A free society requires that individual citizens accept responsibility for making their own decisions and that they accept the results of their decisions without blaming others. They accept responsibility for developing a career that allows them to pay their own way and prepare for retirement. They accept responsibility for taking care of their own family and helping their neighbors. (See also the chapter titled “Freedom.”)
  • Regulatory reform. Government regulation of every facet of our lives increases the cost to consumers, limits consumer choice, and creates new opportunities for influence-peddling and outright fraud by politicians and bureaucrats. Reduce regulations and increase personal liberty.
  • End the drug war. It’s time to recognize that real freedom must include the right to self-destruct. As explained more fully in the “Crime” chapter, legalizing drug use would reduce the profit motive of criminal drug dealers and unburden our overloaded police, courts, and jails.
  • Proactive citizenship. There’s more to citizenship than voting, taxes, and jury duty. We all have an obligation to set a good example for others by being honest, truthful, responsible, hardworking, law-abiding, charitable, respectful of others, patriotic, and informed. Freedom isn’t free. It’s hard work. And freedom can’t be kept without real effort. (Also see the “Citizens” chapter.)

“Love yourself and watch—

Today, tomorrow, always.

To straighten the crooked

You must first do a harder thing—

Straighten yourself.”

—Buddha, spiritual teacher upon whose teaching Buddhism was founded

  1. Hi, I was wondering if this book is suitable for a 12 year old girl? (My daughter) I have every intention of reading a copy myself and therefore finding out for myself if it’s suitable, but I’m still deep in another book. I’ve not found any kind of rating for any of your books, apologies if I’ve just not looked hard enough!Cheers.Tony


    • Yes, Tony, this book is suitable for your daughter. In fact, I tried to make the format as easy-to-read as possible in hopes of attracting young people who want to understand politics in America.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Chapter 5: Individual Responsibility: What wrong & how to fix it « Fixing America's Broken Politics
  2. Action Plan to Save America « Fixing America's Broken Politics
  3. Book chapters, with live links « Fixing America's Broken Politics

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