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Personal Responsibility and Government Mandates

September 24, 2009 - 6:53pm
Jim Iannuzo by Jim Iannuzo


School children recently heard President Obama lecture them on personal responsibility. The truth is that this speech had nothing to do with personal responsibility as taught by our parents.

RIP Personal ResponsibilityThe concept of responsibility, while seeming simple is not generally understood. Responsibility implies a duty based on norms dictated by some external authority. It may be your boss, church or government. For instance we sometimes hear the phrase 'parents must be responsible for their children'. In our modern culture this concept seems sensible but it has not always been the case historically and is not the case in parts of the animal kingdom. Male lions have absolutely no interest in raising baby lions. Are male lions irresponsible or has nature decided that their species will survive best if they go off and make more baby lions? Externally dictated responsibilities are the application of one person's moral inclinations upon others. Sometimes we agree with the norms defined other times we don't. In either case, mandated responsibilities will not provide the framework for a civil society.

President Obama frequently talks about social responsibility, national service and personal responsibility interchangeably as though they are the same thing. Social responsibility is a disingenuous idea that implies a duty to the sovereign. President Obama told school children: 'We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that, if you quit on school, you're not just quitting on yourself; you're quitting on your country.' Essentially he is saying that society and the government have a higher claim upon your time and life than you do. This false message causes the civil strife we see in so many socialist countries. 

Personal Responsibility is something very different. It implies a duty to oneself for initiative and action which ultimately betters you and subsequently society. You do things because they produce beneficial results. Acting in a personally responsible manner not only benefits each of us individually, it results a society that needs very little law. A friendly prosperous society with little need for law is possible if we accept the ideas of self ownership and personal responsibility. This is in stark contrast to government issued rules and regulations that supposedly are in place to 'make people responsible'.

Related Content:

Obama Speaks to School Children - Nick Coons
I'm Mad as Hell and I'm Not Gonna Listen Anymore! - Kimberly Ruff
Obama Says ATMs Are to Blame for High Unemployment - Nick Coons

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