Personal responsibility has become quite the buzz word. I think it almost annoys some people. A lot of conservative republicans have kind of hijacked the phrase and “responsibility” has almost become synonymous with neo-conservatism. It’s a shame too. Because really personal responsibility is what America is all about.
What is personal responsibility and what it’s not?
Personal responsibility is helping your neighbor when they need to paint their house. It’s giving generously to a charity that feeds the hungry. It’s giving your friend a few groceries to get by when times are tight. It’s busting your ass doing something you love week in and week out so you can get meet your own goals.
Personal responsibility isn’t looking down on the poor or believing that everyone can be rich. Those are lies the conservatives on TV seem to believe and liberals spread.
It’s almost like everyone wants something for nothing. They expect the invisible pocketbook of the system to pay for it all. I think that’s where a lot of my distaste for government programs stems from. Sure – it’s great that there is safety net in place to help out those who can’t help themselves, but it seems so much more moral if the people would do it themselves. That is – instead of the government helping – we would help our own neighbor. It’s almost like people have become lazy. Big Brother government will take care of us.
I’m not saying we should disband all government welfare programs. Hell, keep them all! I’m just saying lets change the culture and attitude of everyone. Lets make “help thy neighbor” popular again. Tax me less so I can give more to my Mother. Spend less on fighting with Iranians and spend more on hungry Americans (hungry anybody!). Maybe I’m being overly optimistic about the nature of our fellow humans, maybe no one would give shit unless they were forced to, but surely a system that provides people with the opportunities to take on responsibility for themselves is better than one that is our babysitter.
A perfect example is in my own neighborhood. We have an optional home owners association fee of $25 a year. That’s it! $25 to keep our neighborhood beautiful and home prices high. We have a volunteer crew that does “handyman” work around the public spaces. It’s the perfect example of a free market system – helping yourself helps everyone and visa versa. However, of 185 households only about 35 households have paid the voluntary dues this year. I suspect eventually around 50 will pay. Why such a low participation rate for a service that so obviously benefits you directly?
The desire to pass the buck is an obvious tendency. What if it were a mandatory $25 fee? The neighborhood would be much nicer and happier – but a little less free. Which is better? I have to admit that I think that enforcing the rule may benefit me more (this time), but what about later when I disagree a rule? What about when that fee is increased to $100, $500, etc.?
Any Government or system of power has the incentive to keep taxing you more and more because it benefits the decison maker – where as a voluntary fee has the incentive to stay low – so people will actually pay it. Which system is better? Both have their benefits, but I choose freedom. Especially when those enforcing the rules aren’t living in your neighborhood.
The Third Option
A third option exists. One where everyone freely does the right thing – everyone would do their part and take responsibility. All 185 household would pay the $25, the neighborhood would be beautiful. We could be both rich and free – not just one or the other.
Unfortunately there are always those who will buck the system. Not do their part. Some that can’t do their part. That’s the problem. How do we solve it? I don’t know, but I do know that it starts with each and every one of us taking responsibility for ourselves and doing as much as we can for the rest of mankind – Maximizing Liberty and Happiness.