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Old 07-24-2019, 12:29 PM
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Personal responsibility, or avoiding responsibility?


This is an offshoot from the "which conservative values aren't based on bigotry" thread. From page 1:

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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
How about "personal responsibility" as a conservative value? It's one of mine, and it isn't based on bigotry.
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Originally Posted by JohnT View Post
Personal responsibility is a liberal value as well, Shodan.
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Originally Posted by Airbeck View Post
"Personal Responsibility" is a platitude.
For the purposes of this thread, let's sidestep Airbeck's point about whether or not personal responsibility is even a value, and JohnT's point about (if it is a value) it's uniquely conservative. Certainly conservatives have claimed it as a value, so I want to look at what that means from a conservative standpoint.


As a bit of background for my own point of view, I live in a neighborhood that was founded in racism. About 100 years ago, racist developers bought a bunch of land, incorporated as a city, and sold off deeds that prohibited blacks or Jews from ever owning those plots. Where the city lines ran up against existing housing, the lines were drawn so as to exclude individual blocks (or even specific sides of individual blocks of streets) that were considered to be "too Italian," or too ethnic. When discriminatory deed restrictions were ruled unconstitutional in 1948, the neighborhood continued to keep blacks out by requiring potential homeowners to receive a majority vote from neighborhood associations. This persisted until challenged in court in the late 1970s.

Within the community there's always been a strong pro-social movement. Churches, civic associations, and clubs all exist to help out neighbors in need. People feel responsible for their neighbors. And yet, 100 years ago, the initial residents felt so little responsibility for neighbors who didn't look like them that they built an entirely new city right next to the old one just to keep them out.

The 3rd generation residents of my neighborhood, many of whom are still living here, might now, as modern conservatives, still feel no strong responsibility for communities outside of this one, instead feeling that those residents should take personal responsibility for their own situations.

In this way, I can't help but feel that "personal responsibility" as a value cannot be disconnected from the racist history of a society. It's very clear that a moral wrong was committed; that this moral wrong has a lasting effect on residents of the city on both sides; and that many residents who benefited and continue to benefit from that moral wrong feel that they didn't inherit any responsibility in correcting that moral wrong under the guise of personal responsibility.
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Old 07-24-2019, 12:49 PM
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I'm pretty sure that "personal responsibility" means "Don't blame others for the results of your own bad decisions" and "Do everything you can personally do to rectify those bad decisions before asking others (the government) to help you"

Those sentiments in and of themselves are not bigoted. When they are only levied against certain groups of people, then yeah, that's when it becomes bigoted.
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Old 07-24-2019, 01:31 PM
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"Personal responsibility" means I am personally responsible for the things I personally did. Feeling responsible for things I didn't do may or may not be a good thing, but it isn't the same thing.

And it goes both ways. I am responsible for the things I do wrong, as well as the things I do right.

Obviously it's not 100% - maybe society is partly to blame if I rob a liquor store, just like it is partly the reason that I graduated at the top of my class at West Point. But by default, the locus of responsibility is me, not anybody else.

Your example of feeling responsible for the racist town you didn't found or participate in isn't "personal responsibility" in that sense - it's altruism, which is a fine but not synonymous thing.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 07-24-2019, 01:42 PM
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My impression is personal responsibility is a way to justify callousness. To justify cuts to the social safety net or harsh criminal sanctions. Also as OP mentions a way to justify lack of empathy towards minorities who do not have it as good.

When it comes to Republicans committing crimes, the mantra disappears. The modern conservative movement is based on paranoid fantasies of victimization, which is the exact opposite of the personal responsibility they claim to stand for. Railing that white Christians are victims because their iron grip on power is slipping is the exact opposite of personal responsibility.

Where is this mantra when coal miners see their jobs disappear and they refuse to train for a 21st century economy? Or when farmers vote for trump and then he passes tariffs that damage their companies? Or when Roy Moore and Donald trump threaten the people they sexually assaulted rather than accept what they did was wrong and their voters applauded?
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Old 07-24-2019, 01:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
"Personal responsibility" means I am personally responsible for the things I personally did. Feeling responsible for things I didn't do may or may not be a good thing, but it isn't the same thing.

And it goes both ways. I am responsible for the things I do wrong, as well as the things I do right.

Obviously it's not 100% - maybe society is partly to blame if I rob a liquor store, just like it is partly the reason that I graduated at the top of my class at West Point. But by default, the locus of responsibility is me, not anybody else.

Your example of feeling responsible for the racist town you didn't found or participate in isn't "personal responsibility" in that sense - it's altruism, which is a fine but not synonymous thing.
What you're missing here is the throng of calls for other people to take more personal responsibility for themselves. Would you say that's what conservatives typically mean when they talk about personal responsibility (e.g., an outward direction rather than an inward reflection)?

And if so, isn't that a rejection of altruism?
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Old 07-24-2019, 01:51 PM
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I identify as politically conservative.

On the one hand, "It is right to give every man his due". This is Plato's definition of morality, and equivocal to personal responsibility. I cannot justify the concept without resorting to decidedly religious or at least spiritual axioms such as the existence of a soul - not necessarily an immortal soul and not necessarily a divine one - and a spiritual basis of morality.

On the other hand I am less than confident about those religious axioms, which sometimes lead to distasteful conclusions. For example, basing public policy on personal responsibility alone is contradictory to egalitarian principles. Nature is not egalitarian, and no man is responsible for acts of nature. Historian/geographer Jared Diamond attributed simple geography as a factor for much of the inequalities in history, and I subscribe to that theory. Whose fault is it that the Americas had few domesticable animals, and therefore no immunity to animal-borne disease? Putting aside the hostility between colonists and indigenous peoples, if there were a peaceful coexistence but the natives fell victim to plague, is this justice? Did the natives deserve it?

Consider if a hurricane blew destroyed my neighbor's house (as Maria did). Did they deserve to lose their new home? Is it not a category mistake to ascribe culpability to acts of nature, given nature's lack of sentience? Why then should I subsidize the repairs except out of the goodness of my heart? Of course, I think it is a good thing to help them repair their house. I even think subsidizing other houses affected by the hurricane is a good thing. But personal responsibility must give way to some other doctrine, because it is unquestionable that I am not responsible for acts of nature.

If this other doctrine is charity, rather than egalitarianism or utilitarianism, the cynic in me says acts of nature will doom people to undeserved suffering. And if no other doctrine is presented, the only answer is that suffering is deserved.

Suffice to say, I have mixed feelings on this subject.

~Max
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Old 07-24-2019, 03:44 PM
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The oft-unspoken flip side of "personal responsibility" is "freedom from responsibility to the community." As in, "I've got myself covered, and the rest of you should, too, so don't come crying to me when you need something."

One anecdotal example: A few years ago we had a prolonged heat wave that strained regional power capacity. Brownouts happened. The power company and local authorities urged people to raise their thermostats a degree or two. I'll never forget a staunchly Republican friend of mine saying, "Screw that. I'm not raising my thermostat. I pay my bills so I can keep my house as cool as I want."
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Old 07-24-2019, 04:56 PM
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What's interesting to me is that often "personal responsibility" is extended more to family/immediate community. I hear it all the time as a teacher: "Why should we have free breakfast, lunch and snack for poor kids? Shouldn't the parents be responsible?"; "School choice makes sense because parents need to take responsibility for their kid's education." This is really noticeable when it comes to food stamps--most people on food stamps are children, so complaining about lazy people on food stamps is really complaining about people with lazy parents. You also get a lot of "should have thought about that before they had kids you can't afford"

The same thing is visible when it comes to things like child abuse and domestic violence: "If someone hurt my family, I wouldn't wait for the government to act, I would take responsibility myself to handle the situation"; "In my day, if a boy was a problem, he got a visit from a dad or an uncle with a shotgun" and "I don't think we should interfere in this bad situation, it's really the family's responsibility to handle it internally".

Personal responsibility is important. But I think a critical difference between the traditionally conservative and liberal points of view is whether or not children are basically an extension of their parents; the conservative point of view seems to feel like the children are so closely aligned with the parents that if the parents fail to take responsibility, then the responsibility doesn't transfer to society--it's not the kid's fault, exactly, but that doesn't make it anyone else's job, either. I think there's generally an idea that if parents are not given another option, they will pull their shit together and take responsibility, or wouldn't have had kids to start with--the problem is that we don't force them to, so they don't. If it's a game of chicken, Conservatives think Liberals swerve too soon and create irresponsible parents; Liberals think conservatives are risking kids's lives and hurting their future based on principle.
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Old 07-24-2019, 05:05 PM
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The term "personal responsibility," like "family values" or "religious freedom," has become a neoconservative dog whistle. I have not heard anyone I would describe as liberal, or even as compassionate, utter that phrase in years. It may have meant a wider range of things once, but these days it only seems to mean what Akaj described.

Just now I tried to think of examples of people I've judged harshly for, essentially, abdicating personal responsibility, and I can think of plenty; I just use different words. Friend's boyfriend who blamed her for making him mad when he pushed her? Abusive. Co-worker who always asks to borrow money because her husband usually carries cash and she hasn't yet figured out she needs some too? Immature and shortsighted. Acquaintance who thinks he shouldn't have to pay the speeding ticket he so richly deserved? Whiny and stupid. Person who, on at least one occasion, has not fully accepted personal responsibility? Ummm...everyone. Maybe that's why lumping all those things together and pretending only some people are like that and need to be like this is associated with bigotry.
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Old 07-24-2019, 05:10 PM
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Your IPhone is made by people living in barracks who work 12hr days, six days a week. Same with your Nike’s, only those are made by children. Widely known and documented for a decade!

What’s your personal responsibility for those choices exactly?

Last edited by elbows; 07-24-2019 at 05:10 PM.
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Old 07-24-2019, 05:18 PM
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Person who, on at least one occasion, has not fully accepted personal responsibility? Ummm...everyone. Maybe that's why lumping all those things together and pretending only some people are like that and need to be like this is associated with bigotry.
Let's not forget the concerted efforts in the 70s and 80s to demonize black welfare recipients. While most recipients of government aid were (and still are) white, the notorious "welfare queens" were always black. To anyone predisposed to disapprove of people receiving welfare as lacking in personal responsibility, the faces they associated with that shortcoming were black. And to anyone predisposed to be racist, they could now use "lack of personal responsibility" as justification.
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Old 07-24-2019, 06:01 PM
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As a bit of background for my own point of view, I live in a neighborhood that was founded in racism. About 100 years ago, racist developers bought a bunch of land, incorporated as a city, and sold off deeds that prohibited blacks or Jews from ever owning those plots. Where the city lines ran up against existing housing, the lines were drawn so as to exclude individual blocks (or even specific sides of individual blocks of streets) that were considered to be "too Italian," or too ethnic. When discriminatory deed restrictions were ruled unconstitutional in 1948, the neighborhood continued to keep blacks out by requiring potential homeowners to receive a majority vote from neighborhood associations. This persisted until challenged in court in the late 1970s.

Within the community there's always been a strong pro-social movement. Churches, civic associations, and clubs all exist to help out neighbors in need. People feel responsible for their neighbors. And yet, 100 years ago, the initial residents felt so little responsibility for neighbors who didn't look like them that they built an entirely new city right next to the old one just to keep them out.

The 3rd generation residents of my neighborhood, many of whom are still living here, might now, as modern conservatives, still feel no strong responsibility for communities outside of this one, instead feeling that those residents should take personal responsibility for their own situations.

In this way, I can't help but feel that "personal responsibility" as a value cannot be disconnected from the racist history of a society. It's very clear that a moral wrong was committed; that this moral wrong has a lasting effect on residents of the city on both sides; and that many residents who benefited and continue to benefit from that moral wrong feel that they didn't inherit any responsibility in correcting that moral wrong under the guise of personal responsibility.
You and the other residents of your neighbourhood have a personal responsibility for the actions that take place in your neighbourhood, not the neighbourhood down the road. You also have no personal responsibility for the actions of the people who founded your neighbourhood, whether or not you were related to them. Blame is not an inheritable liability. That is my belief and it is very much a conservative belief.

Where you do have a responsibility, both personal and collective, in in ensuring fair allocation of collective resources. Say you live in Neighbourhood A which is mainly upmarket, and Neighbourhood B on the other side of the tracks is the same size and mainly downmarket. Suppose for the sake of hypothesis that Neighbourhood A and Neighbourhood B each have a school. Regardless of the property values or income levels of each neighbourhood, both schools should receive the same funding. Thatís fair. I regard fairness as a conservative value. However, suppose that the Neighbourhood A school has a much more effective PTA than the Neighbourhood B school and thus performs better. Thatís an unequal situation, but not an unfair one. The conservative/liberal divide then is on how many resources and how much effort should be used to address the inequality. My belief is that a traditional conservative wonít want the resources taken from the Neighbourhood A school simply because itís performing better. However, if there are specific issues at the Neighbourhood B school that can be addressed through additional funding, then it should be considered. If Neighbourhood A schoolís advantage is parental involvement, youíre not going to match that advantage at the Neighbourhood B school simply by throwing money at it. A different example might be study software. If Neighbourhood A privately funded study software for its schoolís students, and found that it worked, then whoeverís at the district level above both Neighbourhood A school and Neighbourhood B school should consider expanding the distribution of study software to the entire district. Thatís effective use of resources which is also a conservative value. The follow-on is whether to pay for the additional cost of the study software by reducing another cost, by raising taxes, or by borrowing and paying for it in the future. Based on an uncertain future return, a traditional conservative would select trading costs, raising taxes and borrowing in that order. This is my view of conservatism, and within this thread Iím not interested in assessing how current national governments match to my vision of conservatism.

A different example of the allocation of resources would be fighting crime. In theory, Neighbourhood A and Neighbourhood B should have equal crime-fighting budgets and equal amounts of policing. However, suppose Neighbourhood B has more crime. Thatís a situation where, in my opinion, unequal allocation of resources is justified. Neighbourhood B has more crime and therefore should receive more policing and other crime-prevention resources in order to reduce the amount of crime. However, there should be a baseline police service, and that service should not be diminished in Neighbourhood A. Also, in terms of personal responsibility, itís wrong for Neighbourhood B to blame its crime problem on Neighbourhood A. Likewise, if Neighbourhood B has more crime than Neighbourhood A, its residents shouldnít complain about being more heavily policed. The burden of being more heavily policed is a collective responsibility issue, but itís a counterpart to the additional resource allocation to prevent crime.
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Old 07-24-2019, 06:14 PM
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In my experience "personal responsibility" means "I shouldn't have lift a finger or pay a penny to help other people."

It usually goes right alongside the mantra of the value of charity, which is "people should voluntarily support each other and aid each other when they're in need."

The combination of these two results in "I certainly expect to be helped by others, but should not be required to help anybody myself - it should be a charitable act which I will do out of the kindness of my christian heart."

Sometimes they even actually are charitable. Now and then. To people they like. The right people. Not the ones that don't deserve it.
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Old 07-24-2019, 06:14 PM
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Collective responsibility? How, exactly, does that work?
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Old 07-24-2019, 06:28 PM
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Collective responsibility? How, exactly, does that work?
That's when people think something should be done but that somebody else should do it. (Or more specifically, that it would be a bad idea if each individual attempted to do his own portion of it himself.)

Collective responsibility is the reason government exists, and the rationale from which roads and police forces are spawned.
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Old 07-24-2019, 06:44 PM
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My impression is personal responsibility is a way to justify callousness. To justify cuts to the social safety net or harsh criminal sanctions. Also as OP mentions a way to justify lack of empathy towards minorities who do not have it as good.
An over-generous social safety net is bad. Societal gross value is maximised when everyone in society is contributing to society by being productive citizens. Some people are naturally less productive and some people are unable to be productive. The issue is when the less-productive claim to be unable to be productive, and that's accepted. That issue is furthered when people take advantage of the social safety net, and also the black market for cheap labour or benefit resources such as housing.

Quote:
When it comes to Republicans committing crimes, the mantra disappears. The modern conservative movement is based on paranoid fantasies of victimization, which is the exact opposite of the personal responsibility they claim to stand for. Railing that white Christians are victims because their iron grip on power is slipping is the exact opposite of personal responsibility.
Are there major church groups declaring that white Christians are victims? What are the top 10 white Christian, or multi-ethnic Christian church bodies in the US and which ones have declared Christians to be societal victims. I'm sure you can find fringe examples, but if you want to judge the right based on the fringe-right, I'm sure you'll agree it's fair to judge the left on the fringe-left.

Quote:
Where is this mantra when coal miners see their jobs disappear and they refuse to train for a 21st century economy? Or when farmers vote for trump and then he passes tariffs that damage their companies? Or when Roy Moore and Donald trump threaten the people they sexually assaulted rather than accept what they did was wrong and their voters applauded?
Can you cite an actual example of a coal miner refusing to train for a modern well-paying 21st century job because he preferred coal mining? I'll agree with you that Trump's treatment of farmers has sucked, and that US farm policy should be reformed. I'm also mindful that US farmer issues have existed my entire life, and could you please advise me of when a liberal presidential administration reformed US agricultural policy? Or at least took a strong international stance backing American farmers?
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Old 07-24-2019, 06:54 PM
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That's when people think something should be done but that somebody else should do it. (Or more specifically, that it would be a bad idea if each individual attempted to do his own portion of it himself.)

Collective responsibility is the reason government exists, and the rationale from which roads and police forces are spawned.
You skipped a couple-three steps in there. Let's use a high profile example: What is my part,as a white guy, of the collective responsibility for slavery in pre-Civil War USA?
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Old 07-24-2019, 06:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners View Post
An over-generous social safety net is bad. Societal gross value is maximised when everyone in society is contributing to society by being productive citizens. Some people are naturally less productive and some people are unable to be productive. The issue is when the less-productive claim to be unable to be productive, and that's accepted. That issue is furthered when people take advantage of the social safety net, and also the black market for cheap labour or benefit resources such as housing.
I am uncertain about most of the statements in this paragraph. Even taken at face value, I'm not sure that an "over-generous social safety net" has ever been seen on the face of the earth.

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Can you cite an actual example of a coal miner refusing to train for a modern well-paying 21st century job because he preferred coal mining?
I'm not sure that "a 21st century economy" means that there's "a modern well-paying 21st century job" for everyone. From what I hear of the current economy, it probably would involve becoming a farmhand, out picking in the fields, for subsistence wages.

That would probably help the farmers out too.
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Old 07-24-2019, 07:04 PM
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You skipped a couple-three steps in there. Let's use a high profile example: What is my part,as a white guy, of the collective responsibility for slavery in pre-Civil War USA?
You don't get it - the whole idea of collective responsibility (as I think of it) is that it's not the individual's responsibility to take direct action. Instead we pay taxes, the government takes the taxes, and they decide not to give anything to black people.

Our job is just to pay taxes, and stop electing criminal morons.


(And for the record, you're talking to the wrong liberal. I don't think that society, even at the governmental level, has a responsibility to make direct reparations for pre-civil-war slavery - though society does have a responsibility to deal with our current black populations (and white populations) in an intelligent and constructive manner.)
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Old 07-24-2019, 07:06 PM
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An over-generous social safety net is bad. Societal gross value is maximised when everyone in society is contributing to society by being productive citizens. Some people are naturally less productive and some people are unable to be productive. The issue is when the less-productive claim to be unable to be productive, and that's accepted. That issue is furthered when people take advantage of the social safety net, and also the black market for cheap labour or benefit resources such as housing.
How would people take advantage of the social safety net? There are welfare cheats, but the bulk of spending on welfare goes to retirees, health care and education. There is welfare for the poor, but public investment in education, healthcare and pensions for the elderly is about 3 trillion in the US. Food stamps and WIC are a fraction of that.

Racial resentment is one of the strongest predictors of opposition to welfare among whites.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/2960399...n_tab_contents

Quote:
This article examines the role of racial attitudes in shaping white Americans' opposition to welfare. Past research on welfare views has focused on economic self-interest, individualism, and egalitarianism. Using a covariance structure model, I confirm the significance of these factors, but find that racial attitudes are in fact the most important source of opposition to welfare among whites.
Just like racial resentment is one of the strongest predictors of gun ownership among whites.

https://www.semanticscholar.org/pape...e935790f27d232



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Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners View Post
Are there major church groups declaring that white Christians are victims? What are the top 10 white Christian, or multi-ethnic Christian church bodies in the US and which ones have declared Christians to be societal victims. I'm sure you can find fringe examples, but if you want to judge the right based on the fringe-right, I'm sure you'll agree it's fair to judge the left on the fringe-left.
Among mainstream republicans, the attitude that whites, men and christians are as persecuted as gays, blacks or muslims is a mainstream attitude.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/polit...=.9b1c22336d76

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Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners View Post
Can you cite an actual example of a coal miner refusing to train for a modern well-paying 21st century job because he preferred coal mining? I'll agree with you that Trump's treatment of farmers has sucked, and that US farm policy should be reformed. I'm also mindful that US farmer issues have existed my entire life, and could you please advise me of when a liberal presidential administration reformed US agricultural policy? Or at least took a strong international stance backing American farmers?
https://qz.com/1118162/coal-miners-a...er-retraining/

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-t...-idUSKBN1D14G0
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Old 07-24-2019, 07:17 PM
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What's interesting to me is that often "personal responsibility" is extended more to family/immediate community. I hear it all the time as a teacher: "Why should we have free breakfast, lunch and snack for poor kids? Shouldn't the parents be responsible?"; "School choice makes sense because parents need to take responsibility for their kid's education." This is really noticeable when it comes to food stamps--most people on food stamps are children, so complaining about lazy people on food stamps is really complaining about people with lazy parents. You also get a lot of "should have thought about that before they had kids you can't afford"

The same thing is visible when it comes to things like child abuse and domestic violence: "If someone hurt my family, I wouldn't wait for the government to act, I would take responsibility myself to handle the situation"; "In my day, if a boy was a problem, he got a visit from a dad or an uncle with a shotgun" and "I don't think we should interfere in this bad situation, it's really the family's responsibility to handle it internally".

Personal responsibility is important. But I think a critical difference between the traditionally conservative and liberal points of view is whether or not children are basically an extension of their parents; the conservative point of view seems to feel like the children are so closely aligned with the parents that if the parents fail to take responsibility, then the responsibility doesn't transfer to society--it's not the kid's fault, exactly, but that doesn't make it anyone else's job, either. I think there's generally an idea that if parents are not given another option, they will pull their shit together and take responsibility, or wouldn't have had kids to start with--the problem is that we don't force them to, so they don't. If it's a game of chicken, Conservatives think Liberals swerve too soon and create irresponsible parents; Liberals think conservatives are risking kids's lives and hurting their future based on principle.
I generally think of myself as centre-right rather than conservative and one of the main reasons is that I'm mystified by mainstream conservative attitudes towards education, child-care, and youth centres. I think that investment in the future is a conservative value, and education, at least through elementary and secondary levels is investment. With child care, you can have four women rejoining the workforce and pay for one caring for children. Account for secondary productivity benefits and it pays for itself. Youth centres won't have an immediate profit and loss benefit, but I suspect have a long-term benefit. Keep someone crime-free through the age of 18 and I expect they'll probably be less likely to commit crimes than a juvenile offender. So distract them from crime until they're old enough to realise how stupid it is.
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Old 07-24-2019, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners
Are there major church groups declaring that white Christians are victims? What are the top 10 white Christian, or multi-ethnic Christian church bodies in the US and which ones have declared Christians to be societal victims. I'm sure you can find fringe examples, but if you want to judge the right based on the fringe-right, I'm sure you'll agree it's fair to judge the left on the fringe-left.

From Wesley Clarke:
Among mainstream republicans, the attitude that whites, men and christians are as persecuted as gays, blacks or muslims is a mainstream attitude.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/polit...=.9b1c22336d76

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wrenching Spanners
Can you cite an actual example of a coal miner refusing to train for a modern well-paying 21st century job because he preferred coal mining? I'll agree with you that Trump's treatment of farmers has sucked, and that US farm policy should be reformed. I'm also mindful that US farmer issues have existed my entire life, and could you please advise me of when a liberal presidential administration reformed US agricultural policy? Or at least took a strong international stance backing American farmers?

From Wesley Clarke:
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-t...-idUSKBN1D14G0
Thanks. I acknowledge that both of your responses are excellent rebuttals and deserve consideration.
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Old 07-24-2019, 07:40 PM
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You don't get it - the whole idea of collective responsibility (as I think of it) is that it's not the individual's responsibility to take direct action. Instead we pay taxes, the government takes the taxes, and they decide not to give anything to black people.

Our job is just to pay taxes, and stop electing criminal morons.


(And for the record, you're talking to the wrong liberal. I don't think that society, even at the governmental level, has a responsibility to make direct reparations for pre-civil-war slavery - though society does have a responsibility to deal with our current black populations (and white populations) in an intelligent and constructive manner.)
My job is to pay taxes? Are you sure? That doesn't make a good fit with what I learned in those long-ago civics classes. Also, how do we deal with the problems facing the present black population when a substantial number of people believe that those problems are the direct result of slavery? I'm curious, see, because my family didn't arrive in the US until just before WWI and didn't break into even lower middle class until the 1960s. If I have to pay taxes to pay for my part in the collective responsibility for a given wrong, I want to know exactly what my responsibility is and pay taxes proportionately.
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Old 07-24-2019, 07:47 PM
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My job is to pay taxes? Are you sure? That doesn't make a good fit with what I learned in those long-ago civics classes. Also, how do we deal with the problems facing the present black population when a substantial number of people believe that those problems are the direct result of slavery? I'm curious, see, because my family didn't arrive in the US until just before WWI and didn't break into even lower middle class until the 1960s. If I have to pay taxes to pay for my part in the collective responsibility for a given wrong, I want to know exactly what my responsibility is and pay taxes proportionately.
I'm quite sure it's your responsibility to pay taxes. (And I don't know what you learned in your civics classes, so I can't comment on that.) I'm also quite sure that if you do your own math on what your part of your "collective responsibility" is and attempt to only pay that much, nice men in suits (or uniforms) will come and have a chat with you about your underpayment.

And we (our government, that is) deal with problems by looking at the problems and addressing them directly, specifically addressing their current causes. Which almost certainly aren't events of hundreds of years ago. Or at least that's what they're supposed to be doing.
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:00 PM
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I'm quite sure it's your responsibility to pay taxes. (And I don't know what you learned in your civics classes, so I can't comment on that.) I'm also quite sure that if you do your own math on what your part of your "collective responsibility" is and attempt to only pay that much, nice men in suits (or uniforms) will come and have a chat with you about your underpayment.

And we (our government, that is) deal with problems by looking at the problems and addressing them directly, specifically addressing their current causes. Which almost certainly aren't events of hundreds of years ago. Or at least that's what they're supposed to be doing.
So, correct me if I am wrong, I just have to accept what the men with guns say is my my fair share and pay it? Gee, doesn't seem quite right...The old Virginia familes et. al. profited mightily from slavery and hold onto wealth and property accrued through it, but I should just shut up and pay?
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:11 PM
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So, correct me if I am wrong, I just have to accept what the men with guns say is my my fair share and pay it? Gee, doesn't seem quite right...The old Virginia familes et. al. profited mightily from slavery and hold onto wealth and property accrued through it, but I should just shut up and pay?
You could vote for people who are willing to raise taxes on those southerners holding on to generational wealth from the slavery era and redistribute that money to areas of society that need it. Just an idea. You do get a say in what the men with guns do.

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Old 07-24-2019, 08:15 PM
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You could vote for people who are willing to raise taxes on those southerners holding on to generational wealth from the slavery era and redistribute that money to areas of society that need it. Just an idea. You do get a say in what the men with guns do.
You are, no doubt, assuming that I voted for Trump and that I am a Republican. It is to laugh.
However, you are correct about the voting and having a say. That is exactly what I alluded to earlier.

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Old 07-24-2019, 09:22 PM
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Max:

Personal responsibility is not about judging others or expecting others not to take help when they need it. It is certainly not an excuse to refrain from helping other people in need, or withholding aid from them.

Personal responsibility is just the ethic for how you choose to live your life, hence the ďpersonal.Ē It has nothing to do with anybody else.

The idea is that you be prudent and self reliant and avoid becoming becoming a burden on loved ones, or society at large. Itís a powerful tool. Itís about deciding not to be a victim and continuing to strive and believe that you are in control of your destiny when life knocks you down.

All it really is is an attitude. Itís telling yourself that you are still in the fight when all you want to do is quit. I think it shares a lot in common with classical Roman or Greek stoicism like Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, or Seneca.
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Old 07-24-2019, 09:26 PM
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Max:

Personal responsibility is not about judging others or expecting others not to take help when they need it. It is certainly not an excuse to refrain from helping other people in need, or withholding aid from them.

Personal responsibility is just the ethic for how you choose to live your life, hence the ďpersonal.Ē It has nothing to do with anybody else.

The idea is that you be prudent and self reliant and avoid becoming becoming a burden on loved ones, or society at large. Itís a powerful tool. Itís about deciding not to be a victim and continuing to strive and believe that you are in control of your destiny when life knocks you down.

All it really is is an attitude. Itís telling yourself that you are still in the fight when all you want to do is quit. I think it shares a lot in common with classical Roman or Greek stoicism like Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, or Seneca.
How does that translate to political policy?
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Old 07-24-2019, 09:44 PM
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How does that translate to political policy?
It does not, directly, though perhaps it informs how we go about managing our safety net as a society in terms of avoiding the lure of moral hazard.

Banks that take excessive risk knowing that they can be bailed out because they are too big to fail is a problem. People who rely on welfare or unemployment if they donít really need it is another problem.

You want to avoid this without shaming or withholding aid from those who really need it.

Itís a conundrum.

I donít know how to implement personal responsibility at the corporate or individual level through government, because it really should be a cultural thing.
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:55 AM
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How does that translate to political policy?
It's a declaration that no one else needs to be considered, just the self: " It has nothing to do with anybody else." Kinda the opposite of a political policy or even awareness, though.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:17 AM
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What you're missing here is the throng of calls for other people to take more personal responsibility for themselves. Would you say that's what conservatives typically mean when they talk about personal responsibility (e.g., an outward direction rather than an inward reflection)?
"Personal responsibility" means me as well as other people. I am responsible for my own actions, and other people are responsible for their own actions.
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And if so, isn't that a rejection of altruism?
It isn't either-or. Any more than the presumably liberal principle of altruism means that everyone need only sit still and let other people solve their problems for them.

"You are responsible for yourself" is the default, and subject to override, depending on circumstance.

The assumption "you are responsible for your own life" is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for you to make anything of your own life. If you assume you can do it, you can often but not always do something. If you assume you can't, you can never do something.

Sometimes you can't do anything. The rest of the time, you can.

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Old 07-25-2019, 10:23 AM
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The conservative would view people that look to the government to provide basic necessities as lacking personal responsibility.

Influencing the government by voting or otherwise is not part of personal responsibility. Why would that be personal responsibility when influencing others to do the “right thing” is not?

I do not lack personal responsibility because I failed to influence government to do something. I similarly wouldn’t lack personal responsibility if I failed to influence bums to stop drinking. I have no responsibility towards anyone other than those I voluntarily interact with including my family, friends, employers, business associates, coworkers, and in some cases neighbors.
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:26 AM
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Personal responsibility is not about judging others or expecting others not to take help when they need it. It is certainly not an excuse to refrain from helping other people in need, or withholding aid from them.

Personal responsibility is just the ethic for how you choose to live your life, hence the ďpersonal.Ē It has nothing to do with anybody else.

The idea is that you be prudent and self reliant and avoid becoming becoming a burden on loved ones, or society at large. Itís a powerful tool. Itís about deciding not to be a victim and continuing to strive and believe that you are in control of your destiny when life knocks you down.

All it really is is an attitude. Itís telling yourself that you are still in the fight when all you want to do is quit. I think it shares a lot in common with classical Roman or Greek stoicism like Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, or Seneca.
I get part of what you are saying. Personal responsibility of oneself has a flip-side. To say "I am responsible for my actions" does not imply that "I am not responsible for not-my-actions". You are saying there is an alternative interpretation, "at the very least I am responsible for my actions". I agree and will adopt this principle, which doesn't resolve the problem of theodicy/natural disasters but separates that problem from the concept of personal responsibility. There are still other conundrums, such as when one has dependents (legal or otherwise) and accepting the consequences of your own action appears to cause more suffering overall than refusing to do so.

That being said, I still think personal responsibility is a way to judge people. I am responsible; I am irresponsible; he is irresponsible; he is a responsible person; etc. Or more specifically, he has a sense of personal responsibility; he has no sense of personal responsibility. Perhaps you think these are mere colloquialisms or empty phrases, or that they are a misuse of the words. I disagree, these phrases mean exactly as they read. They are judgements of people and in many cases I think they are warranted and useful, for example when a bank is evaluating a person for a loan, when discussing the prospects of an interviewee, or when a friend asks for your opinion on a prospective date.

I also believe a negative judgement of personal responsibility should only be made when one is familiar with the particulars or has given the person a chance to explain themselves. Weird stuff happens every day and people might have very good reasons for doing or not-doing whatever appears to offend my standard of personal responsibility.

~Max
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Old 07-25-2019, 10:33 AM
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Sometimes you can't do anything. The rest of the time, you can.
We're back to a platitude, then. "People have some degree of control over their lives, unless they don't" is hardly a profound principle to build a political philosophy on. It's a statement that nobody could possibly disagree with.

Let's not pretend, though, that this simplistic way of looking at personal responsibility is how conservatives use that phrase.

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Originally Posted by Mitt Romney, 2012
There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47% who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.

And I mean the president starts off with 48, 49, 4— he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax. 47% of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes — doesn't connect. So he'll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich.

I mean, that's what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.
This goes well beyond personal responsibility as a positive character trait, or simplistic ways of looking at self-determination. Romney's version of invoking personal responsibility seems to serve two purposes.

1) It's used as as invective, incorrectly conflating people who don't pay federal income taxes with all Democrats and excoriating them for lacking character, and
2) As I've stated in my thread title, an absolution of responsibility. It's not Romney's job to worry about other people, he says.


So I ask again, how does this concept translate to policy, except to absolve people of the responsibility for caring for their fellow citizens?

Last edited by steronz; 07-25-2019 at 10:36 AM.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:04 AM
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The oft-unspoken flip side of "personal responsibility" is "freedom from responsibility to the community." As in, "I've got myself covered, and the rest of you should, too, so don't come crying to me when you need something."

One anecdotal example: A few years ago we had a prolonged heat wave that strained regional power capacity. Brownouts happened. The power company and local authorities urged people to raise their thermostats a degree or two. I'll never forget a staunchly Republican friend of mine saying, "Screw that. I'm not raising my thermostat. I pay my bills so I can keep my house as cool as I want."
Even personal responsibility as espoused by conservatives is strongly linked to limited government.

If you fail to do something that could have prevented something, it is then not the fault of the government and/or the community to do it for you.


With that said, I do believe in a social and governmental safety net but not at the cost of absolving the personal responsibility of the parties in question.

Hurricanes etc, insurance covered the house, infrastructure damage, government has that. What else is missing? If you are personally responsible for your status in life, your financial and social mores are on YOU. The fact that this may affect racial classifications differently is the fault of whom?
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:07 AM
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Do you think children should be personally responsible for themselves? Some of our kids are in bad situations due to simply the circumstances of their birth. Do you just say to them, sorry you should have chosen better parents?
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:15 AM
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Do you think children should be personally responsible for themselves? Some of our kids are in bad situations due to simply the circumstances of their birth. Do you just say to them, sorry you should have chosen better parents?
Good question.

Perhaps the parents should be held personally responsible for having said children? Perhaps the state should assume responsibility for those children (by taking them away from parent's who cannot be personally responsible)
But no, the children cannot be responsible for actions not their own.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:24 AM
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I get part of what you are saying. Personal responsibility of oneself has a flip-side. To say "I am responsible for my actions" does not imply that "I am not responsible for not-my-actions". You are saying there is an alternative interpretation, "at the very least I am responsible for my actions". I agree and will adopt this principle, which doesn't resolve the problem of theodicy/natural disasters but separates that problem from the concept of personal responsibility. There are still other conundrums, such as when one has dependents (legal or otherwise) and accepting the consequences of your own action appears to cause more suffering overall than refusing to do so.

That being said, I still think personal responsibility is a way to judge people. I am responsible; I am irresponsible; he is irresponsible; he is a responsible person; etc. Or more specifically, he has a sense of personal responsibility; he has no sense of personal responsibility. Perhaps you think these are mere colloquialisms or empty phrases, or that they are a misuse of the words. I disagree, these phrases mean exactly as they read. They are judgements of people and in many cases I think they are warranted and useful, for example when a bank is evaluating a person for a loan, when discussing the prospects of an interviewee, or when a friend asks for your opinion on a prospective date.

I also believe a negative judgement of personal responsibility should only be made when one is familiar with the particulars or has given the person a chance to explain themselves. Weird stuff happens every day and people might have very good reasons for doing or not-doing whatever appears to offend my standard of personal responsibility.

~Max
I hear you. I love reading about and understanding basic principles, ethics, the roots of our culture, and I really do think that personal responsibility has basically been handed down to us from, and is an abridged version of classical stoicism.

I would again recommend Epictetus, Aurelius, or Seneca to get a good sense of it.

To judge somebody on their personal responsibility or lack thereof is a bit of anti-stoic/personal responsibility thing to do.

What I think happens is that you have people who have not needed help and are fortunate or lucky enough to have their shit together in such a way that they are ok and have always been ok. They take the fact that they have never needed help as proof of their personal responsibility. They lay claim to it and look down on people who do need help or suffer an unfortunate setback as lacking it.

Somebody like Epictetus who was a prisoner and had his body broken through torture, and became a penniless wander... his concept of personal responsibility had a bit more bite.

When I was injured as a child my father told me that I really didnít belong in the hospital, because it really wasnít that bad, and it was my job to heal up and be tough and work with the doctors to the best of my ability so that they could focus on the kids that really needed the help. He told me it was my job to be the example, so that it would help the others, and to help out as much as I could.

This was a powerful thought. It told me that I was an active agent in my own recovery, and that I had responsibility towards others. Having skin debrided is basically hell on earth. But, if you think that other people will have it far worse than you, and you need to be an example for them, and you need to not fight the doctors, you start to yourself ďthis is not so bad, I can get through this.Ē Such an attitude was a gift that saved me from self-pity, despair and wallowing.

A very interesting book ďDeep SurvivalĒ makes a similar case. It is a study of people who have been in extreme situations. A surprising fact, is that if you are in life threatening situation your chances of survival are much higher if you have somebody who is dependent on you. This is demonstrated time and again. It is at first counterintuitive, but it starts to make sense the more you think about it.

There have been plane crashes in Alaska. A single person or a couple of uninjured people donít fare as well as say, somebody who is injured but also has to help somebody with two broken legs. If you are caring for other people, you donít pity yourself. You donít wallow.

When you take personal responsibility, you are telling yourself that you are valuable and involved, that you are a positive agent for change, it is proof of self-worth.

One of the great problems of the social safety net is that a ďhandoutĒ robs them of this sense of value and worth, not to other people, but to themselves.

I remember reading about the Japanese welfare system way way back (so I may have this wrong,) but that system demands things of its beneficiaries so that it does not rob their sense of worth (their culture is different, and I donít think itís directly applicable to us.)


Humans are strange social creatures. We will do things for others that we would not do to help ourselves if we feel responsible to them.



Personal responsibility is about who you are to yourself, in light of the respect you feel towards others. I think it is the opposite of selfishness, though it is powerful to the self.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:25 AM
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Good question.

Perhaps the parents should be held personally responsible for having said children? Perhaps the state should assume responsibility for those children (by taking them away from parent's who cannot be personally responsible)
But no, the children cannot be responsible for actions not their own.
Do you think if a single parent loses their job, gets injured, or for some other reason can't afford rent/food/medical care for a time deserves to have the state take their children away? Wouldn't SNAP etc. be cheaper for society then assuming the entire responsibility for raising that child? You can't always force parents to be as responsible as you wish them to be, but those kids are still Americans and deserve to be treated as such and shouldn't be allowed to starve to death or die from treatable conditions due to lack of insurance or ability to pay medical bills, and simply taking every kid away from parents you deem irresponsible by your definition does not seem like what we should be doing in this country. Maybe we just need to accept that some people are not going to be as responsible as you want them to be, but innocent kids should not bear the cost of that. If we are to be the enlightened society that we claim to be, then maybe we just need to deal with that reality instead of trying to justify why we don't need to help those kids.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:27 AM
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I think both liberals and conservatives favor personal responsibility, even if liberals are far less likely to use the phrase; but I don't think they mean quite the same thing by it.

I get the impression that what conservatives mean by "personal responsibility" is a combination of two things:

1) each person is responsible for their own actions, and the socially-expected results of those actions.

2) each adult is financially responsible for paying their own bills, and those of any minor children they have.

What liberals mean by it is more like:

1) each person is responsible for the effects of their own actions. Doing something that accidentally causes harm doesn't make you a bad person necessarily, and avoiding it entirely may be impossible; but that doesn't remove the responsibility, and the person who causes accidental harm should do their reasonable best to ameliorate it.

2) each person is responsible for pulling their own weight. This may be done in financial or in non-financial forms; 'their own weight' is a variable measure both between people and at different points in any one person's life; and nobody is pulling, or can pull, the whole load.

Both of these can be hard on people in different ways. The conservative attitude seems to lead to results such as: if you did poorly in school, it's because you didn't study hard enough, and you deserve not to be able to get a good job. If, whether or not you did well in school, you don't have enough money to pay your bills as an adult, this is because you made some wrong choice along the way; you've done something wrong, and whether or not you get some form of grudging help you deserve to be denigrated for it. If you took a gamble in your life that didn't work out (and conservatives seem to be all for encouraging people to 'take risks'), that's your own fault, and you deserve to be poor and to be denigrated for it.

But the conservative sense means that, if you did manage to be doing well financially, and you're not doing anything obviously considered socially evil such as bashing your neighbor's head in, you're off the hook. You can keep all your money, except what you owe for services directly rendered to you, and you don't have to spend any time or energy or money worrying about anybody else. (The hook may get you unexpectedly at any moment. But that's usually not allowed for in such thinking, or is handwaved as something that won't happen if you just keep Doing Everything Right.)

The liberal sense means that you're responsible for a whole lot of other people, some of whom you know next to nothing about. If you say something innocently that damages somebody else, you ought to apologize and quit saying it, even if that means that you have trouble thinking of an alternate wording. If you discover that tuna fish caught in Thailand was very likely caught by slave labor, you're not a bad person for having bought such tuna before you knew about it; but now that you know you ought to be looking at cans of tuna to see where they're from, and pay extra for the ones that say they were caught and processed somewhere else, and worry that the somewhere else may not be any better. No fair deliberately refusing to look at the news so you won't find out. And you shouldn't complain about, and should support directly and/or vote for, money and/or time to be spent to help people who aren't doing as well as you are; at least as long as the money and/or time to be spent won't do you serious harm.

But when you need help yourself, you're off the hook. Because nobody can be expected to pull the whole load, and at any given time some people can pull less than others; and that doesn't mean they're bad people who ought to be denigrated. As long as you're doing your best to pull what you reasonably can, that's enough.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:33 AM
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Do you think children should be personally responsible for themselves? Some of our kids are in bad situations due to simply the circumstances of their birth. Do you just say to them, sorry you should have chosen better parents?
Personal Responsibility is something you learn and develop through life, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn.

Little kids arenít capable of it, though they can learn if they are taught and fortunate to be given problems and responsibilities in line with their maturity and abilities so that they can fail and succeed and learn or grow.

***

You seem to think that personal responsibility is about judging other people. That is EXACTLY wrong. It is about judging yourself.


I would judge myself very poorly indeed if I were to look down on kids because they had bad parents.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:34 AM
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But cutting the social safety net will directly hurt these kids. And that is something those that claim to be for personal responsibility want to happen.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:44 AM
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Personal Responsibility is something you learn and develop through life, if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn.

***

I would judge myself very poorly indeed if I were to look down on kids because they had bad parents.
Do you see the catch-22 in the above statements?
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:47 AM
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Do you see the catch-22 in the above statements?
Absolutely.
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Old 07-25-2019, 11:50 AM
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This goes well beyond personal responsibility as a positive character trait, or simplistic ways of looking at self-determination. Romney's version of invoking personal responsibility seems to serve two purposes.
Wait, Romney is a conservative. And apparently folks on the left think Trump is a conservative. But Romney is no fan of Trump. How can that be? It's mind blowing - almost as if conservatism isn't a monolithic thing! Wait, is that racist? Personal responsibility is racist too I suppose.

Personal responsibility is so blasť. If personal responsibility were not so eschewed, how could accomplishments by the individual be denigrated, and poor choices be excused?

We're doing parody, right?
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Old 07-25-2019, 12:04 PM
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But cutting the social safety net will directly hurt these kids. And that is something those that claim to be for personal responsibility want to happen.
They tend to, I agree. I think their motives fall into a couple of categories.

1. They social safety net is higher than it needs to be. ďNobody needs to be sitting around, drinking beer and playing PS4 while on welfare. If they can, we are giving too much.Ē

2. Cutting these programs will force people off of them, and make them take care of themselves and they will end up better off in a ďtough loveĒ sort of way.

3. As structured these programs are a disincentive to provide for oneself.


I think 3 is true, but I think the evidence shows that these programs actually work a lot better than we have any right to expect based on how poorly they are often structured.

I think that this is true for two reasons; dealing with the government is such a horrendous unpleasant nightmare that no longer having to do so is a strong incentive to bootstrap oneself (government bureaucracy and red tape as a feature not a bug.). And, I think most people have a sense of personal responsibility and they want to take care of themselves.

I think these programs need to be the size they need to be based on the need that exists, so Iím not intrinsically for cutting or expanding them. I do think they need to be reformed and improved and aligned with economic and psychological incentives to success.

Most importantly, I think the schooling we provide the underprivileged children of this country is one of our worst sins as a society, and that needs to be fixed.
  #48  
Old 07-25-2019, 12:10 PM
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Most importantly, I think the schooling we provide the underprivileged children of this country is one of our worst sins as a society, and that needs to be fixed.
I agree. The very best thing we can do for the future of our society is to ensure that all of our kids have every opportunity to succeed and excel. We are falling well short of that right now.
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  #49  
Old 07-25-2019, 12:41 PM
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We're back to a platitude, then. "People have some degree of control over their lives, unless they don't" is hardly a profound principle to build a political philosophy on. It's a statement that nobody could possibly disagree with.

Let's not pretend, though, that this simplistic way of looking at personal responsibility is how conservatives use that phrase.



This goes well beyond personal responsibility as a positive character trait, or simplistic ways of looking at self-determination. Romney's version of invoking personal responsibility seems to serve two purposes.

1) It's used as as invective, incorrectly conflating people who don't pay federal income taxes with all Democrats and excoriating them for lacking character, and
2) As I've stated in my thread title, an absolution of responsibility. It's not Romney's job to worry about other people, he says.


So I ask again, how does this concept translate to policy, except to absolve people of the responsibility for caring for their fellow citizens?
What Romney gets wrong is conflating those who don't pay income tax with those who expect the government to take care of them.
What Romney get right is that the first responsibility for everyone is to take care of themselves and their family. If everyone did that then there would be no need for other people to do it for them. The truth is that the government can't take care of people. A welfare check is no substitute for a job. Teachers, principals, and social workers can't substitute for involved, loving parents.
The idea that the government can take care of people if only the right people were elected is poison. The only thing that can help people is self reliance and if universally practiced it would solve nearly every political problem.
  #50  
Old 07-25-2019, 01:00 PM
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What Romney get right is that the first responsibility for everyone is to take care of themselves and their family. If everyone did that then there would be no need for other people to do it for them. The truth is that the government can't take care of people.
Is there no room for community? Friends? Neighbors? Church/civic groups?

Do you think that people often get help from those around them?

Do you think that people have a general responsibility to help those in their community?

I find it hard to believe that helping oneself and one's family is the end of altruism in the average conservative mindset. Do you agree?
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