How to instill a sense of personal responsibility

I’m very glad Bookworm is back and will leave the blogging to her, but I did want to throw out one more topic that came up in a prior comment stream.  The question was what our society can/should do to instill a sense of personal responsibility.  Mike Devx was kind enough to start things off with the following:

1. Throw out government no-smoking laws over businesses. If you want to avoid smoking, don’t frequent establishments where it is allowed. Restaurants, apartment complexes, etc, should be free to establish their own rules.

2. Throw out criminal penalties for businesses that allow their patrons to get drunk. If they get drunk, it’s their problem.

3. Set driving speed limits based solely on safety, for each particular road.

To those suggestions I would add turning our schools into places of merit.  No more social promotions.  To graduate from high school, students would have to master 12ths grade work and demonstrate on a test that they have done so.  In fact, I’d add tests to graduate from grade school and junior high.  At home, allowances should be earned, not just given.  All children should be given age-appropriate tasks around the house that are their sole responsibility.

What other suggestions do the Bookwormroom readers have?


13 Responses

  1. Forget it.

    We’re heading in the other direction. We have been for some time. And it isn’t just some political liberal/conservative thing. I’d guess it mostly has to do with wealth.

    Those without money think they’re entitled to cable tv and healthcare and any other list of things. Those with money think they’re entitled to whatever they can afford.

    In my grocery store, in Florida, I’m buying naval oranges from South Africa. Why? Couldn’t I do without oranges until next season? Every bookstore in the country just had lines and an obscene amount of news coverage for a single book. Because we had to have it. Same thing happens with game consoles and iPhones and ugly toys at Christmas.

    It’s so widespread we hardly even notice anymore.

    Remember some of the stuff people were spouting back when the RIAA was going after Napster and downloaders? One of people’s defenses was that a CD might have one or two good songs…then it was filled with crap. People were justified stealing the one song they wanted because they thought it wasn’t fair to make them buy the whole CD.

    It never occurred to them to simply NOT buy it.

    We’re spoiled with our wealth. We demand the government provide us with a security that our grandparents would have been embarrassed to not have been able to do themselves.

    In a few generations we’ve gone from a society that took pride in doing as much as possible for themselves…to a society that takes pride in having as many things possible done for us. I can barely change the oil in my car. If the air conditioner or refrigerator or well pump or any of the other daily necessities break I’m hopeless. I still take pride in being able to fix a washing machine or dryer…if you call swapping out Chinese made parts ‘fixing’.

    Don’t get me wrong…I love it. I love the luxury we live in. But it occasionally is unsettling to me that my daily existence is so entirely dependent on others. And I fear that we’re in for a rude awakening if things ever break down. I can’t farm and I can’t hunt. Granted…those things aren’t impossible to learn. But with your average person (okay…I’m a pessimist) knowing more about Lindsay Lohan’s daily routine than how to grow simple sustenance crops…something is awry.

    Oh, I try to instill personal responsibility in my children. But it isn’t anything that society values…so they already look at me as a curmudgeon.

  2. How about tort reform? There are way too many frivolous lawsuits that jam the courts and slow the process of justice for the real victims of tragedies. I would even include reforms on the medical suits. Would a system of loser pays help to eliminate silly suits? I do not know enough about the law to know if this type of system would work. As an example I do know that there isn’t a smoker left on Earth that does not know smoking is dangerous to ones health, yet people still file lawsuits hoping to hit the jackpot.

  3. I’m with Rockdalian… Loser pays. Make it so that the plaintiff assumes some risk for law-suits they file. We’d have many fewer frivolous suits, many less precedent setting decisions which remove individual responsibility from all of us.

    Also, punitive damages awarded should go to the public good, not the individual and it’s lawyer. Compensate the winning plaintiff with actual losses plus something for inflation, but the punitive portion of the award should be excluded from Lawyers fees and ought to go into the governments coffers… individual states or federal… doesn’t matter.

    Punitive damagess ought to be just that… punitive to the offender and not a winning lottery ticket to the plaintiff and his/her lawyers.

  4. DQ,

    I am a fan of The Dangerous Book For Boys, and I check out the customer reviews at Amazon periodically. There is an interesting review by Mark Withers (7/27/07) that talks about the need to teach boys about taking risks. It’s another aspect of teaching resonsibility.

  5. I think essentially you just apply the principle of reciprocity to lawsuits. If you can’t take the kind of damage you are willing to inflict on someone else, then don’t start the fight.

    In practice, the plaintiff may take on anywhere from 25% to 50% of the damages he would have been awarded had he won, from the defendant.

    This will cut the sharpness from the feeding troth of endless lawsuits used to bring down wrongdoing that can’t be proven in court as criminal.

    Criminal system is designed on the double jeopardy system for a reason, precisely because you shouldn’t have individuals or companies suffering endless lawsuits on the same exact things.

  6. No Federal aid for “disasters.” You build in a place where there are tornadoes, tidal waves, or earthquakes, you either pay the insurance or you save money to rebuild your own house. I say this as a Louisiana native — I think N.O. would be further down the road to recovery if a year hadn’t been wasted in arguing and filing suits about Federal aid.

    (I’m not talking about the immediate humanitarian aid, of course — it’s a legitimate government job to provide immediate relief and restore order in the wake of a catastrophe.)

    I’m especially tired of seeing my tax dollars go to rebuild vacation condominiums built on sandbars.

  7. A few thoughts I have had on my list of three actions:
    – I’m not claiming that second-hand smoke is harmless. If it truly is a problem, then smoking should be made completely illegal. Else, it is in the best interests of restaurants, apartment complexes, etc, to enact their own restrictions as they see fit.
    – Bar owners or bartenders have a SOCIAL obligation not to continue serving drunk customers. I have an obligation not to frequent a bar where the patrons are obviously drunk.

    It does in fact always come down to the government taking responsibility for our lives, rather than us taking responsibility for our lives. The nanny-state is just one step towards socialism.

  8. The can-do American work ethic was born of necessity. Most Americans used to be rural and poor. They had to grow their own food, make their own clothes and be self-sufficient. In our time of urban living, affluent post industrialization and instant electronics, the focus of work is not on basic needs anymore. Most of our jobs are totally divorced from our survival. We buy everything. We hire people to fix things or we buy again. There is a unique satisfaction in making things, fixing things, and a day’s work in which the results were easily seen. Now it’s much harder to pinpoint what people even do.

    Wants and needs are mixed up. I want a blackberry vs I NEED a blackberry. I want those shoes, vs I NEED those shoes. I want a luxury car, vs I am ENTITLED to a lexus after all these years of hard work. Even welfare benefits, food stamps and so on are referred to as “entitlements”. There is apleasure in anticipation and working toward a goal. Instant gratification diminishes gratitude.

    One way to encourage more personal responsibilty is to be more connected to neighbors. Traditionally Americans were personally responsible but helpful to neighbors. In the frontier, a neighbor could make the difference between life and death. Neighbors have kept an eye on other’s kids, kept te community safe and social. Now people often don’t even know their own neighbors and the sense of responsibility to a community is diminished.

  9. Welcome to Conservo-Fantasyland! where nothing ever, ever perverts the operation of “market” selection pressures. Which, of course, is pure white-diamond nonsense — and an intellectually vacant position that the irresponsible and simple-minded (i.e., authoritarian conservatives) promote because they’re stupid.

  10. Greg, my friend, where have you been? We’ve been discussing interesting topics all week. Leave it to you to come out four-square against personal responsibility. ROFL.

  11. There I went, praising greg on another commentary thread for his relatively quiet, reasoned (though faulty 🙂 statements, and then I visit here and see that I was wrong. A paragraph filled with nothing but ad-hominem attacks and insults… sigh, to have put up a comment and then be proven so quickly wrong.

    Comment #9 above is exactly indicative of ‘the ocean of rudeness’ that I was talking about, for which this blog is, well usually at least, an oasis.

  12. But I will bite. Greg, can you identify one such “something” that perverts market selection pressures? I assume that your statement is intended to indicate what is wrong with capitalism and what is wrong with individual responsibility.

    My position is that “pure capitalism” is an environment where wild swings in the marketplace can and do occur. These wild swings are wonderful when the result is “get rich quick”, but they are absolutely devasting when the result is “get poor quick”. When such a downward swing is broad, you have the seeds of vast discontent and anger.

    In combination with “get poor quick” is the law of unintended consequences. Sometimes these consequences are fantastic (ie, the Internet communities) and sometimes they are terrible (ie, Internet child molestors). In economics we have the vast Chinese market opening up, but we also have the worldwide spread, especially over the entire Pacific, of Chinese pollution.

    Enter government regulation. Its intent is to soften the downward plunges, to make them softer. In bounding the worst, they also bound the best. The claim is that over time, they are a drag on progress; and the more intrusive they are, the worse the drag becomes. It’s a question for endless debate how much government regulation is an acceptable price to pay for its humane effects.

    I suspect that most market perversions are caused by regulation or by cartels of companies or interests that, via regulation, prevent competition from entering their controlled field of interest.

  13. A paragraph filled with nothing but ad-hominem attacks and insults… sigh, to have put up a comment and then be proven so quickly wrong.

    G never changes, Mike. The cancer just tends to have periods of remission. But it always comes back, ya know.

    Enter government regulation. Its intent is to soften the downward plunges, to make them softer. In bounding the worst, they also bound the best.

    The government should ensure domestic tranquility; meaning that one group can’t break a whole bunch of laws and slaughter a whole bunch of people to get rich. You can’t kill your business competitors if they get in your way, is one example.

    The government is thus here to enforce laws on both sides and make sure people play fair. Beyond that, they shouldn’t have a say. The problem is then that government is being given more power over regulating businesses, which forces businesses to have more of a say in government. Thus, special interest lobbies.

    Businesses love to make money thus I tend to think they would be happy to avoid government inefficiences if they could. But with socialism and such, that is unlikely.

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