Personal Responsibility 


A response to the modern blame game 

I propose a drastic change to the way we see ourselves in the world. I believe that instead of focusing on how others cause our suffering and hardships, we look inwardly at ourselves. By taking responsibility back as individuals, we increase our own individual freedom, and we will be able to lead better lives. To do this, we must not only take on responsibilities that lead us to happiness and pleasure, but take the responsibilities that may lead us to despair in ruin. For what is freedom without the freedom to fail? What is risk without the possibility of losing? In today's society, it is expected that the government can mitigate the risk in our life. My belief is that it is the job of any government to make sure its citizens are protected and free to be themselves so long as they do not unreasonably infringe on other citizens. The job of government is not to make sure everyone is successful and can support themselves, the job of the government is not to make people happy.

We must learn as a Western society that the first person we ought to blame is ourselves. As individuals in this society, we feel entitled to a 2-story suburban home, we feel entitled to have a certain level of income, we feel entitled that our skills ought to be in demand, we feel entitled to the best health care available, we feel entitled to a guaranteed income in our twilight years, we feel entitled to all be above average; the list goes on and on. The fact is the only thing you are entitled to is what you can earn with your set of skills. You are good with computers, but lack physical and interpersonal skills, there are jobs suited for your talents. You do not know much about technology, but you work hard and are creative, there are jobs suited for you. You are as valuable as what you can provide to the economy. It is unreasonable to think that someone who digs ditches ought to be considered as valuable as someone who cures disease. That's in no way to suggest that a doctor is better person than a ditch-digger, but in terms of value to society, the doctor is clearly more valuable.

We have got to realize that the reason we lose our jobs to immigrants, and foreign nations, is not because of greedy corporations, but because the value of those jobs are not as high as we expect our salary to be. Simply put, no one is going to get paid $20 per hour to manufacture rubber ducks. Now here is where personal responsibility comes in. Once we realize that we have a limited set of skills, that can only accomplish a certain level of pay and once we have established that that income is not enough to support our desired lifestyle, one option becomes glaringly clear. Do not whine that you are being paid a substandard wage, do not say that your boss is out to ruin your life; learn new skills, become more valuable, become something worth paying a high wage to. Dedicate yourself to constantly becoming more skilled and more educated, and your wage will consistently rise. Once the focus changes from blaming the outside world for individuals not having a high enough income, and shifts to the individual improving himself real change occurs. Instead of a society which mostly believes education ends with a diploma, we have a society which is continually becoming smarter and better educated, all while incomes rise. If we can accept the notion that we are responsible for our incomes, we can start applying the principle to other things around us. We are responsible for where we buy our homes. We are responsible for the upbringing of our children. We are each responsible for the actions we take in our own lives, and we must cope with the consequences of them.

 Why do so many of us yearn for a society in which all of us are guaranteed a particular standard of living? In fact this is slowly encroaching into American society. Social security guarantees income to retirees. Medicare and welfare seeks to guarantee the unfortunate the necessary money to get by. It looks like any day now the government is going to guarantee that everyone is entitled to live in their house, even if they cannot afford it. Remember, all of these entitlements are good in the sense that they improve the lives of those they affect. However, each entitlement  gives a penalty  to those who do not qualify for the entitlement. Each entitlement whittles away at our freedom to fail, our freedom to struggle with adversity, our freedom to be as independent as possible. Modern society revolves around a constant guarantee of new entitlements and new benefits. We must all be wary of their encroachment. Rewarding those who serve our country with benefits is sensible and encourages young men and women to serve. Rewarding those who cannot afford their mortgage and debt by bailing them out with tax dollars is ridiculous and only encourages reckless behavior. I am not, however, advocating that as individuals we ought not to participate in charities, soup kitchens, and community service. These are all very noble and rewarding pursuits which, when funded by private individuals, create a fantastic and caring part to our society which helps those people who have fallen on to hard times. I support private charities when I can afford to, and when I want to, but the government should not be able to force me to pay that money, or decide to which causes I wish to support. I think our society would be much improved by not seeing the government as a solution to our problems. 

What do I see as change that can be made to improve society? The change in attitude is the first and most important thing. Once we take responsibility for ourselves and our lives, that attitude will foster the types of responses that are appropriate. Furthermore, it will become important to decrease federal mandates and move them to a more local level. The smaller the constituency, the laws that are passed are more appropriate. For example, there is no reason for taxpayers in Massachusetts to pay for the development of farming regulations, whereas in Kansas, there is no need for taxpayers to pay for the development of commercial fishing laws. Nor is there any precedent that the voters of Massachusetts should have any say in the farming regulations in Kansas. Our education system should be made as local as possible; the things relevant to be taught in school vary from school to school. The current federal and state mandated systems do not allow room for education on the local area's economy or history, though both are invaluable for learning about the world. Move things down to the states, then to counties, and then to townships. In the short term, turning off entitlements is neither practical nor politically possible. What must be done is to stop the constant increase of them in our society. The risk is to become a society in which the only distinction between success and failure is whether we are supporting others to have a satisfactory lifestyle, or we are being supported to a satisfactory lifestyle. We risk becoming a society which increasingly devalues success. With each passing entitlement, the incentive for becoming successful is less and less. The ensuing stagnation from a society which rewards success with the burden of supporting failure would be incomprehensible.

 As an individual, do not expect someone to save you from your mistakes. Do not expect someone to save you from inaction. Remember, that the most effective way to solve problems is to treat yourself as the cause of the problem and the agent of the solution. This way, you are in control of the outcome of the issues that come up in life. Trying to correct problems by seeing yourself as an inconsequential being takes the control away, makes it so that things cannot improve, without the interference of someone else. Ask the questions: "What could I have done to have avoided this situation?" "What can I do to rectify the situation?" Acknowledge the answers, and fix the problem. The only entity which most of us have any control over is ourselves. By focusing on our actions and on ourselves, we are able to positively affect our lives. Expecting anyone else to save us is fool hearty.