Chapter 1: Responsibility Universal National Service

I. Responsibility No man was ever endowed with a right without being at the same time saddled with a responsibility. — Gerald W. Johnson The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves. ––William Shakespeare The Buck Stops Here. — Harry S. Truman Every social order contains the seeds of its own destruction. Among these are: 1)The erosion of responsibility. The undermining of the family and the firm. 2)The erosion of rights: The confusion of interests with rights has substantially eroded our rights and changed the role of government. The primary role of the government in a liberal society is to provide rights of food, education, housing, medical care, etc. . . 3)The socialization of risk which has reduced the returns to responsible behavior. Welfare increases illegitimacy. Unemployment insurance increases unemployment. Social security reduces private savings. and 4) Erosion of the moral order. Conservatives wish to make a crime out of every sin, liberals a requirement out of every virtue. The basic shift which has occurred in the last few decades has been from a belief in individual responsibility, laissez faire, decentralized and limited government to a belief in social responsibility and a centralized and powerful government to protect individuals and to control the operation of the economy in the general interest. The Focus has been on Rights rather than responsibilities Stressing equality over progress, redividing the pie rather than enlarging it. The function of government according to the New Dealers was to protect individuals from the vicissitudes of fortune and to control the operation of the economy in the general interest, even if that involved government ownership and operation of the means of production. Benevolent public servants, disinterested experts, should assume the power that narrow-minded, selfish ‘economic royalists’ had abused. Emphasis on the responsibility of the individual for his own fate has been replaced by emphasis on the individual as a pawn buffeted by forces beyond his control. This has led to the view that government’s role is to serve as a parent charged with the duty of coercing some to aid others. Far too many people shirk responsibility for their actions and for the welfare of others with “Let the government do it” and “There oughta be a law.” Yet, the only way to get rid of responsibilities is to let someone else make the decision for you, that someone all too often is the government. Freedom means responsibility. In a free society, the citizen should take responsibility for his actions. Winston Churchill put it very succinctly, “Responsibility is the price of greatness.” Rights are being demanded by every potential special interest, entitlements as well, but few are talking about responsibilities. . . that is, obligations owed in return for their received government largesse. Citizenship has come to mean a catalog of absolute rights without corresponding duties. The result is a corrupted liberal order, an uncivil society where citizens have turned into ethical strangers snarling at each other over their own special interests. Respect for rights have overwhelmed all other political ideas; the idea of duty and responsibility has eroded to the point of disappearance. One must not only assert rights but to ensure that they be protected. No society has ever existed on rights alone, to the neglect of duty and obligation and collective responsibility needed to guarantee those rights. This protection rests wholly on the principle of responsibility. Rights have become more important than responsibilities. Individuals have become more important than community interest. Everyone has a right and no one has a responsibility. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Liberty means responsibility, that is why most men dread it. “ We may have a right to seek employment but not a right to hold a job forever. Rights are freedoms, not entitlements. One may have a right to health care but that doesn’t entitled him to automatically have health care. A society without a sense of common responsibility is unhealthy nor long for this world. Government support has replaced individual responsibility for many welfare recipients; they are told that their fate is not their fault, therefore it is society’s problem to feed them. In a society that has mastered dodging responsibility, many of the homeless prefer the life of no responsibility at all. Only individuals and society as a whole (collective rights) have rights; no group should be entitled to special privileges. It is not enough for a nation to have a handful of heroes. We need generations of responsible people. Heroes can not be substituted for a society of responsible citizens who place their civic obligations before their private interests. A nation that has forgotten to work hard, how to obey the law, how to sacrifice for national destiny, is not a nation that can be sustained for any great period of time. The fundamental problem of the decline of the United States is the deterioration of the old American values (prudence, thrift, hard work, self discipline) in a liberal welfare state. Why be thrifty when your old age and health care are provided for, no matter how profligate you may have been in your youth? Why be prudent when the state insures your bank deposits, replaces your flooded-out house? Why be diligent when half your earnings are taken from you and given to the idle? America was founded on the premise that so long as citizens accepted the consequences of their own actions, it was their right to be free and even lead eccentric lives; but that premise is now reversed. Too many people shun personal responsibility and think those who are irresponsible or foolish should be subsidized by others. Can one be held responsible for his own actions? With the shifting emphasis from individual responsibility to societal responsibility, the view is becoming general that people are the creatures of their environment and should not be held responsible for their behavior. If people who are poor hold the view that poverty is not their own fault but the fault of society at large, their perfectly understandable reaction is “I have the right to act against society and to take what I need or want.” According to this view, the real crime is society’s, he/she is the product of his/her environment, the victim of a social system. Therefore, the criminal is not at fault, not directly guilty and should be let go while society should be castigated for being the propagator of such actions. How many times have we heard those lines read in the defense of a criminal? The Freudian explanation of crime absolves the individual from all personal responsibility and places the blame squarely upon society. The current fad in legal defenses is to blame somebody else . . . not taking one’s own responsibility. . . (which would not be so bad if it were an unsuccessful defense but the string of successes in recent times is alarming. . . Loretta Bobbitt, the psychiatrists in the Menendez brothers murder case who convinced jury members that the parents were to blame for their own death, successes such as these provide incentive to use this line of reasoning more often, and thus, threatening to legitimatize its rationale.) “We must restore a sense of personal responsibility and accountability to our legal system, and judges must instruct jurors they should not act as cheering audience members on Sally Jesse Raphael,” says wisely Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard Law Professor. Disaster victims are upset that the government is not giving them enough money to totally rebuild their destroyed homes. They are upset because they are only getting a pittance (although $12,500 dollars is not exactly peanuts.) from their big brother government. They ‘deserve it’ because of all their misfortune. Granted, we empathize with the losses they have suffered. However, where does it say the government has to take care of them, make their losses whole? Where is the responsibility of the homeowner? Why didn’t the homeowner have private insurance? It is readily available for both renters and owners, in fact, mortgage lenders require it. If he or she took the risk not to have it, they must accept the blame if they loose the gamble. If no private insurance company would insure it or set so high of rates than the homeowner cannot afford it, one must understand why, that is, the home is on a floor plain or earthquake fault line. If so, once again, the homeowner takes the chance and builds or rebuilds his house, he takes the risks and must accept the consequences, both of failure as well as success. It is the lack of acceptance of responsibility, not accepting of blame, of failure, all these items which are so sadly lacking in the America of the 1990s. The campaign against smoking has been raised to a level of personal vendetta by the Clinton Administration, almost simultaneously while winding down the war on drugs. Drug users should be rehabilitated and it is society’s fault that they were on drugs. Smoking, though, is the direct fault of the tobacco companies who advertise for users who become addicted--they made me do it. Smoking is under attack for a drug, for being addictive, and the liberals want it banned. Smoking is just the beginning. The liberals have decided, subjectively what is good and what is bad for us, and are trying to impose their values upon us. Smoking should be examined as a personal responsibility and a personal choice. Millions quit every year--thus proving it is not as addicting as thought. Those who do smoke have known for thirty years (unless they are illiterate,deaf, dumb, and blind) of smoking’s possible carcinogenic dangers. Yet they have chosen to continue. It is their choice to do so. Being a choice they must accept (and suffer) any ill consequences. Instead of having the government decide what is good or bad for them, the proper decision is to allow users the option of continuing or stopping. If the government succeeds at banning tobacco, it is a dangerous precedent. What will be next? An estimated $7 billion a year is spent on smoking related illnesses. The answer is not to ban smoking, but to make users pay for their own treatment through a direct excise tax on tobacco products, a tax which will not go into general funds but is specifically targeted to pay for medical treatments for smokers. If banned, another prohibition will result. You remember prohibition. It started with the dogooders--the temperance movement--announcing in 1919 that they had conquered the demon rum and ended with more people drinking than ever before. It seems history is not read by liberals. The more illegal you make something, the more tempting and alluring it becomes. Ban tobacco and we’ll have a new super criminal class. Will we have our children ratting on the parents to their teachers whenever they see the parents take a drag of the forbidden fruit? Will the EPA police force break down the doors to the house and conduct a total room to room search to eliminate the dangerous weed and arrest the culprits? Will one’s children be taken away because one was an unfit parent--a parent who continues to smoke? Is this the future we want for ourselves and our children? The iron rule of politics is that is impossible to enforce laws that are contrary to the society’s values. The first step in retaking our country is to restore the principle of individual responsibility, accountability, that is, to accept responsibility for one’s own actions. This follows Confucian teaching . . . you must take care of yourself. To rely on others is a great shame. Dependence is yielding that (what used to be called) personal responsibility to another. In the case of the 1990s, that other is too often the federal government. Government is all too willingly to receive and take over what should be our own responsibility. Instead of being responsible for our actions, it is society that is the culprit and the person being merely the innocent victim of his environment. What is this interrelationship between people and the government; what rights are inherent in the people and belong to the individual and what rights are inherent in the government? What should it be? How do we overcome this imbalance of people demanding their many (unlimited) rights and and not accepting the (all too) few responsibilities asked of them and in the end turning over to the government their entire sense of responsibility? Responsibility begins when we recognize that we ourselves create our future and that the future is not something imposed upon us by fate or other forces beyond our control. We ourselves build the future both through what we do and what we do not do. When we recognize our power over the future, to anticipate the consequences of what we do or not do and to do those things that will improve our future, we begin to act wisely. Individual responsibility is the Westernized version of the Eastern dogma of karma, that is, every action generates consequences one will eventually have to face. As you sow, so shall you reap. Individual responsibility stresses the present, each individual is responsible for everything he or she does. The triumph of individual responsibility is against the anonymity of the collective, within which lies the possibility of hiding from one’s individual responsibility. With freedom comes responsibility. We must accept our own responsibility for our own fates. Responsibility also demands caring for others. But under the complex interactions of medicine, insurance and law that exists in the West, if you come into my house and see me lying here very sick, or come across someone lying in the middle of the street motionless, you don’t dare move them or try to help me because you are not a doctor and you are afraid I might sue you. Where is your humanity? You have lost it since there are too many rules, too many constraints, too many fears. By doing so, we have lost part of that which makes us human, that selfless concern for each other. We are responsible for our grandchildren and we should work towards making the world easier for our grandchildren by what we do right here and now. Perhaps the originator of our slide away from responsibility was former President John Kennedy. JFK created his set of four Consumer Rights in 1962: Right to choose freely . . . choose among a range of goods and services. Right to be informed . . . to be provided with enough education and product information to enable them to be responsible buyers. Right to be heard . . . to express one’s legitimate displeasure to appropriate parties--sellers, consumer groups, government offices. Right to be safe . . . to be not injurious with normal use. . . should be designed in such a way that average consumer can use them safely. These are all well meaning statements. Examine the last: the right to be safe. As the discussion of product liability (see Chapter 8, Justice) details, a consumer already had such a right with the doctrine of negligence. However, the old common law doctrine forced the consumer to accept some responsibility for his actions . . . that using a lawn mower as a hedge clipper could be hazardous to one’s health, that a burglar breaking into a home or business may incur some physical risk. Unfortunately, the new legal doctrine, that of strict product liability, does away with personal responsibility and lays the safety and health responsibility at the foot of the manufacturer or property holder. When these rights are expanded to guarantee safety for even morons who use the product, to make it so safe not a thought of the user’s own has to take place, to take away any cognizance of personal responsibility for one’s own actions, then the right is not a right any more but an entitlement. The Supreme Court has added to this confusion in its definition of citizenship as “the right to have rights.” Again, it was President Kennedy in his inaugural address making his most famous quote ever, “Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.” This was not controversial then and still is not today--despite the obvious fact that neither half of the statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society. The paternalistic “what your country can do for you” implies that the government is the patron, the citizen, the ward, a view contrary with a free man’s belief in his own responsibility, his own destiny. The “what you can do for your country” implies the government to be the master or deity, the citizen, the servant. To the free man, the country is the collection of individuals who compose it, not something over all of them. He regards government as a means, not a grantor of favors, not a master to be blindly worshiped and served. The truly free man will ask for neither. He asks, “What can I or what can others do through the government.” The modern concept of corporate social responsibility is another example of the expansion of the state into realms of responsibility where previously none had existed: social responsibility, as it is being taught, is the obligation of a firm to consider profit, consumer satisfaction and societal well being of equal value in evaluating a firm’s performance. Whereas Milton Friedman said the social responsibility of a firm should be limited to conducting its business as to maximizing its profits, modern society and government has moved a firm’s responsibility well beyond its original intention. The government is attempting to make the private sector, the firm, a quasi-public entity by requiring such actions by a firm. In an economy, there is only one social responsibility of business--to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, that is, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud. As Adam Smith described it, by pursuing his own interests, he promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. Yet doesn’t the Constitution and the Bill of Rights specifically talk about rights that we as Americans hold; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.“ The founders, however, did not mean to guarantee the American people and their descendants life without risk, liberty without sacrifice, happiness without work. The ‘right’ granted by the founders was the right of any person to try, to compete in an open, fair game, for an equal opportunity to succeed or fail. These rights did not guarantee equal outcome. Am I entitled to happiness, to love whomever I choose, regardless whether she loves or desires me? Am I entitled to happiness, to have all the physical rewards I wish, a Mercedes, a Mansion, a Yacht without having to work and sweat to get them? The right to bear arms does not mean one must have arms or use them. This is not what the Declaration meant. An entitlement is a guarantee. The rights of our founder were like tickets in a lottery, every person had the right to enter and to pursue the jackpot, not the right to automatically win the jackpot itself. A man’s life, his freedom, his happiness are his inalienable rights, not the means to that of others. Jefferson meant that men were equal before God. Each person is precious in and of himself. He has unalienable rights, rights that no one else is entitled to invade. Man is entitled to serve his own purposes and not to be treated as an instrument to promote someone else’s purpose. Similarly, the Bill of Rights, are statements of freedoms, of liberties. The right to bear arms does not mean an entitlement to have a tank or assault gun, it does not mean one has the right to hunt anywhere anytime on whosoever land one wants. The rights of the Bill of Rights were intentionally limited in their scope and intent. Equal opportunity, not equitable outcome was the intent. Equality under the law does not imply that each person is given the same property rights or the same income or the same abilities to operate within the context of the law. It simply means that the law will be equally applied; the property rights of all people, regardless of how much property a person owns, will be protected in the same way by the legal system. It means an equality of opportunity, or as the French say, “une carriere ouverte aux les talents”--- a career open to the talents. Only abilities should determine those opportunities available to a person, nothing else, not race, not class, not sex. A society that puts equality in the name of equality of outcome ahead of freedom and liberty will end up with neither equality nor freedom nor liberty. As a by-product of freedom, greater equality results. Equality of outcome has become to some the ultimate prize. As the Dodo said in Alice in Wonderland, “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.” And then the voices asked the Dodo: “But who is to give the prizes?” Otherwise, in the pursuit to be equal and identical, that is fairness, the major issues becomes who determines what is fair? Complete equality means universal irresponsibility. At the ultimate level, youngsters with less musical skill should be given the greatest amount of musical training in order to compensate for their inherited disadvantage; those with greater musical aptitude should be prevented from having access to good musical training and should help the lesser until they reach the others’ level. That would be fair to the youngsters lacking in talent but not fair to those more talented (don’t laugh, a system like this exists in many public schools with most of the teachers’ time devoted to catering to the special needs of the less capable and motivated students while the more capable are ignored, bored or even asked to tutor those less capable). In Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Harrison Bergeon” (from Welcome to the Monkey House), equality had been finally achieved by bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator. The Handicapper General was responsible for burdening the talented so as to not allow them to take unfair advantage of their talents. The host of legislation during the last thirty years is moving us along this road. Is this what we want our future to be like? No greater inequality exists than the equal treatment of unequals. When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free. Life is not fair. We must accept that. Nature or chance beyond our control made us unequal so we can not be equalized; to allow a deaf-mute to enter an oratory contest is to demean both the oratory and destroy the contest. To do otherwise is to give to another the right to make what used to be one’s own decisions. Someone must decide and hence impose their decisions on others. This results in taking from those who have more than their fair share and giving to those who have less. In such situations, where does the incentive to work hard and succeed come into play. Who, then, must assure people will work, accept roles assigned them, perform those roles according to their abilities. It is only by force or threat of force that such a system can operate. Similarly a discussion of rights and responsibilities must include those of limits. I have my rights and you have yours but yours does not permit you to confiscate my property or to take away my rights. You cannot subvert your neighbor’s rights which striking at your own. I have the freedom of speech as do you. You do not have the right to remove my freedom of speech (A difference that many college administrators and campuses do not seemingly appear to understand). Just as the NAACP has a right to speak its voice, march its parade, so does the KKK. Whether or not one approves of the organization, its intent, its beliefs, its rights are not negotiable. As Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to voice your opinion.” Individual rights are supreme and take precedence over the rights of the group as long as no one’s own rights are harmed nor their property harmed. Today, many feminists march for ‘reproductive rights.’ But what about reproductive responsibility? No one is going to deny you the right to have children, if you can take care of them. Why, though, should it become my responsibility to raise your children, both financially and morally? Rights must be followed by responsibilities. No rights can exist without the right to translate that rights into reality, the rights of property, to work and to keep the results. A society cannot have wealth without intelligence; you cannot force intelligence to work. Those who are able to think will not work under compulsion. Those who will, won’t produce much more than the price of the whip needed to keep them enslaved. It is one’s right to work, live, have his values, keep the product of his work. Any group that attempts to negate man’s rights is wrong, evil. “To prohibit a people from making all that they can of every part of their own produce, or from employing their capital and industry in the way that they judge most advantageous to themselves, is a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind” said Adam Smith. Every act of intervention in the economic life of its citizens gives to a government additional power to shape and control the attitudes, the writings, the behavior of its citizens. The free market protects the integrity of the individual by providing him with a host of decentralized alternatives rather than with one centralized eventuality. The rights and responsibilities of the individual, to society and of one’s own family must carefully be weighted and balanced. What rights should they have and what are the responsibilities that goes along with the rights granted. You can’t have unlimited freedom as well as freedom from any responsibility. The prevailing doctrine held in nineteenth century America argued that each man was ultimately responsible for what happened to him, for his own salvation, both in the here and now and in the hereafter. Thus whether a man prospered or failed was each man’s individual responsibility; each man had a right to the rewards for success and deserved the punishment that came with failure. Man must accept responsibility. Who is to blame? Mea Culpa, I am. When every American is able to admit and accept personal responsibility for his or her own actions, then the first step to retake this fine country has been accomplished. A return to that doctrine is the first step in restoring responsibility of one’s own actions. To aid in restoring responsibility, some element of risk must be put back into life. No insurance company in their right mind insures 100% of anything without deductible or copayment. The insured must have some stake in the action. If it is entirely riskless, then the person will evolve into foolish or inappropriate actions knowing full well he is totally protected against his own foolishness; in other words, all the gain to me and any losses to the insurer. The government has sought to provide a risk free environment. It is like going to the casino and gambling; any winnings are yours, if you lose, the government will reimburse your losing; therefore you are not as concerned as you would be if it were your own moneys. Teenage girls do not worry about pregnancies, if they become an unwed mother the government will give them room and board and cash to live on for as long as they want. So where is the risk? Multiply that example dozens of times throughout the entire governmental system. Why save for retirement? The government is going to fund your retirement so enjoy now and consume--no more grasshopper and ant stories. Unless a degree of risk is brought back into play, the entire society cannot espouse any true sense of responsibility. The importance of attitudes cannot be understated. To change the oncoming tide from dependency to responsibility takes many factors and the most important of all of them is attitude. Americans must change their attitude to one of accepting responsibility and in the process assist in changing the attitudes of those around them. Other attitudes that we as a citizens need to address include apathy and Indifference. Americans must become more caring. More courteous. George Bush was right when he expressed his desire for a ‘Gentler, Kinder Nation.’ We all should all subscribe to that belief. What we need to do is to change the attitude and that can be very contagious. A greater feeling between Americans of being compatriots to each other. To make a better country for all of us. What we have to do is start a feeling of a positive nature realizing that certain things are possible if our attitudes are positive. Nothing is impossible if you want to do it. But, we have to want to do it and we have to work together to do it. The intent here is to motivate us to say, why don’t we try. In the end this would lead to more responsible citizenry. A shift in this direction has been sighted. A Hudson Institute survey in 1994 indicated that the people believed the single greatest threat to future generations was the decline of morals and ethical standards. Americans are generally tolerant and increasingly accept people who are different from them; however, a clear majority are appalled by the cult of victimology whose adherents always blame someone else for their difficulties. A growing number of Americans believe requiring more personal responsibility would halt the fraying of our moral fabric. Rights can only be properly supported if responsibility is present. It is obvious to all of us that these things can be done; what we need is the motivation and the proper attitude to accomplish them. II. National Service To go along with our dual themes of leadership and responsibility, we propose that every citizen between the ages of 16 and 20 must complete 2 years of national service, that is in the armed forces, in the peace corps, VISTA, hospitals, schools, police, a revised CCC, police or fire service, social services (eldercare, youth) or other approved national programs (conservation, ecology, etc.). Voting rights will not be granted until time of entry into the program. Full citizenship rights will be granted after service is completed. Any individual below the age of thirty who desires U.S. citizenship must also serve two years. Years of service performed as part of national service will count towards private or federal seniority. A linkage of educational aid to national service will be part of the program. Room and board and small stipend would be paid, health care provided to the recipients. The youth would not live at home but in dorms. A full eight hour day of work, purposeful activities would be offered. On occasional afternoons, civic lessons on America’s democratic, capitalistic, and historical roots would be provided. Free remedial reading, writing and mathematical courses would be available. The purpose of this national service requirement is to create an awareness of the American system of government, to provide the youth an incentive to become involved in the civic obligations (voting, participation), and to assist in national functions. The youth would learn the complexity of the country, the democratic process. The youth would be exposed to others from around the country, other ethnic groups, other races, other religions. The youth would learn team work, to become a better team player. The purpose of national service is to provide the youth an opportunity to earn his or her citizenship. Afterwards, having earned it, he or she will more than likely feel more behooved to vote, to participate, to carefully access candidates for public offices, to be more concerned with the direction of ‘their’ country. What we want to do is to provide the benefits of ownership, that of more careful attention. The main thing is that it has a advantage of making these people more aware citizens. Vigilance is the key to freedom and this is going to make them more vigilant. By making them more vigilant ultimately you will get better leaders from that vigilance because we will have a higher quality cadre to select leaders from. The other social benefit is to provide the United States with a more responsible and mature citizenry. Too many students graduate from high school and proceed to college without being sufficiently mature to understand the requirements of higher education or to perform at the level required of them. A more mature individual can only aid to the social structure of the country. The difference between an eighteen year old with no previous experience and a twenty year old having two years of work experience is difference between night and day. One is more prepared and more willing and the other one is just out to discover himself/herself and party. This two -year hitch in public service will create a more mature population, a more productive use of youth and a finer appreciation of the country. Those choosing military service as their national service would also receive year for year educational benefits for time served. Two years active service plus four years reserve will be required for that option. Although, it would to some extent make conduct of the national defense cheaper, more efficient, the major benefits would be to provide a sense of civic responsibility as a result of participating in national service. Those serving in the armed forces would become the army reserve, training with the active army and ready to be called upon in actual emergencies. Home Page Preface & Introduction Chapter 1: Responsibility Chapter 2: Leadership Chapter 3: Government Chapter 4: Congress Chapter 5: Regulations and Bureaucracy Chapter 6: Defense Chapter 7: International Affairs Chapter 8: Crime and Justice Chapter 9: Civil rights Chapter 10: Economic Chapter 11: Education Chapter 12: Health Chapter 13: Planning and National Goals Conclusions
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