I think very few people would argue that one of America’s chief social tenants of late has become the abdication of personal responsibility. It’s not my fault! When you combine this with greed (which always comes from having a lot, which we all do — comparatively) and with the belief that the world owes me what I want (thank you social safety net and other liberal ideas), then add a healthy dose of consumerism, you get a fairly lethal cocktail. The more people that drink this Kool-aid, the faster “It’s not my fault” becomes “It’s your fault, and I’m going to sue you for it.”
And this phenomenon isn’t limited to your kid tripping on my hose and breaking his arm. It’s everywhere. Even in government. As the world’s gotten smaller (which I talked about yesterday) and the philosophy of I’m-not-responsible has taken root, an interesting change has been made possible for the traditional institutions of government.
At the local level, it’s the county’s or the state’s problem. At the state level, it’s a federal problem. At the federal level, the supreme court seems to be involved in every law that’s been passed in the last 5 years. It seems like nobody wants to be the guy. It’s always somebody else. How many times during the Hurricane Katrina tragedy did you here the mayor say it was the governor’s problem or the governor say that it was Bush’s fault. Some of that is politics, sure, but some of it is the need to blame someone else. Who in that entire picture stood up and said, “I did this this and this wrong. I’m sorry. I’ve learned from my mistakes.” ? Not many. And this is just one (really good) example.
Something I’ve been hearing a lot more of lately than I used to is the term “International Law”. All over the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, all over the Iraq debacle, all over the accusations of torture and military misconduct we’ve had to endure lately, and even in some supreme court debate. All of a sudden now, members of the judiciary in America seem to think it’s a good idea to cite International Law in their decision making. The constitution’s no longer good enough. Let’s see what France or Russia had to say about … whatever.
And that’s laying the groundwork. As more and more people are less and less able to say, “I’m the man. The buck stops with me.” then the “buck” will naturally get thrown over the wall to some larger body of government to “be the man”. Eventually, you get things like the EU. Seemed like a good idea at the time … I guess … to some. Solve our internal problems with more centralized government. Make things easier. Have them give me stuff. Blah blah blah. But in the end, I can just rely on someone else to make it happen for me. Ought to sound pretty familiar, ’cause it’s the same thing in America for a lot of people. “We can’t do it ourselves.” “It’s the government’s responsibility to save me from all the bad things in the world.” “The government owes me retirement … and welfare … and health care … and education … and … and … and ….” We need help … all the time … for everything. It’s constant. Sometimes it seems like all I here anymore. SUCK IT UP! I get so tired of hearing how people don’t have enough opportunity. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times… “Dude, this is America. If you can’t get it together here, then there’s no place on earth you can get it together.”
But if people won’t take responsibility for themselves … If everyone’s tendency is to throw it over the wall to whoever will catch it … Then one of these days even our national sovereignty will be out the window. And there are some that actively want that. Look at the southern border. “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Look at the debate over Guantanamo Bay. “Every person on earth should be protected by the American constitution and given a lawyer in our civilian courts.” Give me a break!
It’s all connected. These are all symptoms of the line of thinking that Big Brother has to take care of me. I need government to do for me what I can’t possibly do for myself. And on this path, it won’t be that many years before we’re spending Ameros (the currency of the North American Union), competing in the olympics against against the United States of Africa, relying on the United Nations for everything (good luck with that), and getting an upclose and personal look at the debate over which horn will grow up to devour the other ten.
So let’s take a step back here. We don’t need the government to do nearly as much for us as it does. Certainly not more than it does. It’s not someone else’s responsibilty to educate my kids. The TV is a lousy babysitter and an even worse philosopher. It’s probably not the teacher’s problem when little Johnny gets detention. If little Suzie trips on your hose, then she should be more careful. It’s not always racism. You won’t be happy if you just had one more raise. And you don’t need anybody to give you stuff. If we get a little perspective and a lot more backbone back in our lives, then we can do without yet another layer of (International) government. Because I’m just not ready yet for a personal tour through the book of Daniel.
Technorati tags: globalization, one world government, united nations
“and with the belief that the world owes me what I want (thank you social safety net and other liberal ideas),”
I completely disagree with your causal argument here.
” All of a sudden now, members of the judiciary in America seem to think it’s a good idea to cite International Law in their decision making”
Actually, this is nothing new. The supreme court has used foreign legal documents as reference material for hundreds of years.
“The government owes me retirement … and welfare … and health care … and education”
Your argument of globalization alone justifies this. If a company can move their operation anywhere wouldn’t a location look more attractive if a highly educated workpool was available, if the company didn’t have to pay for employee healthcare. If the infrastucture was beyond dirt roads and donkeys?
“Every person on earth should be protected by the American constitution and given a lawyer in our civilian courts.” Give me a break!
We signed the Geneva conventions, which I personally took comfort in when I was deployed to Kuwait. You seem to argue that we should keep the moral high ground in other posts, so I am really surprised by this comment.
“I need government to do for me what I can’t possibly do for myself.”
This is the most succinct argument for the existence of government I have heard in a long time. I feel the only reason for a goverment is because no man is an island.
“It’s not someone else’s responsibilty to educate my kids.”
Please tell me you are not going to homeschool, if so we may need a new post.
“The TV is a lousy babysitter and an even worse philosopher.”
“And you don’t need anybody to give you stuff.”
We used to be this way, I am happy that as a country we are a little more benevolent to those in need. But we have debated this in depth in previous posts.
Holy Snikee’s! JB has finally snapped!! Get that man a box of crayons and a ride on the short bus. 🙂
Let me just throw my two cents in on the “I need government to do for me what I can’t possibly do for myself” discussion. Like Brad, I agree that this is a pretty good summary of government (even if that’s not how JB meant it). I think the church can and should cover a significant portion of the “can’t do it for myself” work, but that’s another conversation for another time. I would add one critical component to the mix though: we should be ever-seeking to eliminate those things that people “can’t do for themselves”. Yes, help those in need, but do it in a way that teaches them a skill or otherwise encourages/forces them to become self-reliant and accepting of the consequences of their own actions. I’m a big fan of programs that teach the person how to fish over programs that just hand out the fish that someone else caught. If we can structure government in a way that encourages responsibility, then I think people will be much better off and government can start to diminish in size (since there won’t be as many things that we can’t do for ourselves anymore).
You both push the idea of helping people get off of assistance, which nobody in their right mind would disagree with. but then you jump to the conclusion that no one would need assistance anymore.
I don’t think this is possible. People will always lose their job and need unemployment assistance. There will always be people who are not able to be independent. Can you teach a person with no arms to fish, a blind person, a schitzophrenic?
I think we already have policies that encourge people to excel and be self-sufficient. (please argue specific disagreements)
Federal student aid
Employer discrimination laws
WIC, food stamps (benefits you can still recieve while working)
JB I don’t know who you are hanging out with “Sometimes it seems like all I here anymore.” Everyone I work and socialize with are hard-working responsible people. I strongly believe the media is sensationalizing the stories on government dependance. I haven’t studied the numbers, but do recall an article that claimed lawsuits were not shyrocketing in the U.S., just that the crazy ones were getting far more coverage.
I absolutely agree with your point, Brad, that help for those in need will never be zero, for exactly the reasons you’ve pointed out. Nor did I ever state that I hoped government assistance would ever go to zero. I said that I believe that, with the right programs in place, it can “diminish in size” and I hold to that.
For example, you mention people losing their jobs and needing assistance. I agree that this will always be a reality. However, if we can help people learn better job search skills and/or encourage people to keep their skillsets current and relevant, the amount of time between jobs – on average – should be diminished. Further, if we can teach people basic saving and investing skills while they are still employed, they can be building their own safety nets and require less financial assistance if they do become out of work.
And to answer your other question, yes, you can teach a blind person, a person with no arms, and a schitzophrenic how to fish (and much, much more). Investment in research (prosthetics, drugs, computer accessibility functionality) and select legislation (Americans w/ Disabilities Act) help disabled people live normal lives. My first job out of college I worked with a blind computer consultant. With some enabling technology and an employer who made a few simple accommodations for him, he had a solid career. Don’t be too quick to write the disabled off as permanently needy.
Chris you are advocating
-government paying for job training
-government paying for training for saving and investing
-government paying for health car, prosthetics, medication
Sounds like we agree on a lot. Many of these programs have existed in the past, but they are universally the first on the chopping block when it comes to cutting spending.
You are absolutely right that this is a better and more cost effective way for the government to operate. A study in NY showed that the city could save millions by providing homeless people with an apartment free of charge, to help them up.
excerpt from article
“And the approach costs no more (in fact, probably less) than conventional programs. In a five-year study, Dennis Culhane, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, showed that New York City could give each of its mentally ill homeless residents their own apartment or room plus access to support services for roughly the same amount the city was already spending on ER care, prison time, shelters, and other services. Culhane found that someone mentally ill and on the streets costs government about $40,500 each year. (Homelessness czar Mangano believes Culhane’s accounting is too conservative, because it leaves out the costs of police and court time, care at private hospitals, soup kitchens and other street outreach.) Pathways, on the other hand, spends only about $22,000 a year on each of its clients, and a good portion of that is money already allotted to them through government benefits programs.”
I generally try to stay out of economics stuff because it really isn’t my thing, but I’m still reading it all. And I feel the need to chime in on the discussion about getting people off public assistance, disability, etc, on behalf of Chris. Specifically my husband Chris, given the number of Chrises that frequent this blog.
I agree that an amazing amount can be done to help some people with disabilities have productive lives in society, but I’m afraid that you’re overestimating the ability of psych meds to control things like schizophrenia. It’s really not as simple as getting someone a prescription and expecting them to be able to hold a job like anyone else.
Sometimes a medication that’s been working for months just stops being effective.
Many people start feeling better and quit taking medication. Or deliberately stop taking medication because they can’t handle the weight gain and other side effects. (Compliance is an issue with all meds, of course, but once someone gets off psych meds, it can be a lot harder to convince them to get back on them.)
Many of them have slipped through the cracks of society and spent so much time self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs before getting onto psychiatric meds that they have a ton of other addictions and brain damage that isn’t as readily treatable.
And all of that assumes that society is willing to pay for the medication and other treatment this population needs in the first place.
And these are just the problems I can think of based on being married to a social worker who worked with mentally ill clients for the past several years. I’m sure he could add a lot more. Just wanted to add another voice for the inevitability of need for public aid and the limits to which it can be decreased/eliminated.
A couple quick points.
Yes, Brad, we probably do agree more than might be initially apparent. I’m all for programs that provide the right motivation and training to become self-sufficient. I think we need to be doing a better job teaching some of these basic skills early on in our schools, but I also support government-sponsored programs outside of the schools that teach these skills. That said, I’m not prepared to make the leap with you from govt-sponsored education to handing out free apartments. The former is an attempt to make the person more self-sufficient. The latter is a handout that, in my opinion, creates dependency – 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Even if the immediate economics are sound, I’m concerned about how such a program would demotivate people (both those receiving the free apartments and those observing the handouts) and what that would mean to the long-term economic equation.
Second comment… Thanks for adding your perspective to the conversation, Neva. Much appreciated. To your point, I don’t mean to diminish or otherwise trivialize the non-stop struggle that is schizophrenia. I have a friend who is schizophrenic and I hear about and see the problems both the person who suffer from the disease and those who love & support the individual go through. I agree with you that at present time there isn’t a treatment that will allow these individuals to rid themselves of the disease. I will say, however, that research in the field continues to make big improvements in the lives of those who suffer from schizophrenia. We’re a long way from where we were only 20 years ago. So I acknowledge that we have an obligation to support the folks in the here and now. At the same time, however, I also have great hope that with additional research we can someday reach a place where treatment can truly allow schizophrenics to become self-sufficient.
I’m definitely with you all the way on the hope for research making a difference in people’s quality of living. If I didn’t believe that, I’m in the wrong line of work…
I just wanted to be sure that the full picture was being considered. Most of us in today’s society don’t have a lot of contact with the mentally ill; I certainly didn’t before I got married and now just have second-hand contact. So it becomes easy for people to brush aside mental illnesses as a far more trivial problem than they really are. As long as the reality of the situation is being acknowledged, I’ll wander back out of the economics discussion. And let’s all keep hoping for improvements in medication, therapy, and understandings of the physiological causes behind these illnesses.