Liberty, responsibility hand-in-hand
It’s natural for individuals to work to better their condition. All people set goals and actively pursue them. In society, the ends people wish to obtain almost always have common themes, such as domestic and international peace and stability, economic security and justice for victims and criminals. While these overarching ideas are typically held in common, the means of achieving them can differ radically.
The use of state action is growing as an acceptable means of achieving these ends. While ethanol and oil serve as deadly examples of governmental means gone astray, there is another cost that is difficult to quantify: the cost of this action on us as unique, self-directed responsible beings.
When individuals look to the government in order to solve problems and satisfy their wants, they transfer their responsibility to the government, an external entity separate from cooperative civil society.
Citizens pay taxes and assume the government will deal with pressing issues. Why else would we pay taxes? This weakens the capacity of individuals working together to deal with the world problems and to manage their own lives. The void of responsibility in civic society can grow exponentially.
The constant deferment of responsibility to the state can have horrid outcomes. Once citizens give up on the ability to govern themselves, the collective state rules as the supreme agent of action. The state becomes the first response to pressing issues.
This trap of political thought can help lay the ideological foundation for horrific acts of violence. It is the self-directed and self-thinking individuals who are difficult to drag along on foreign military adventures. In contrast, conditioned people, devoid of their responsibility, can easily be herded into line.
Governmental action seems to always spur more governmental action – temporary agencies seem to have an intrinsic problem of never being quite as temporary as the original designers envisioned. Quick political fixes cause a laundry list of problems calling for more governmental plans. The idea of a limited government, in which some issues are left outside of politics, seems to be a distant romantic vision.
As validation of this pronouncement, look no further than the current presidential election. No longer are these candidates running for the position that would require them to faithfully execute the laws.The position of the president is rather, as Gene Healy of the Cato Institute put it, the "soul nourisher, a hope giver, a living American talisman against hurricanes, terrorism, economic downturns and spiritual malaise. He-or she-is the one who answers the phone at 3 a.m. to keep our children safe from harm. The modern president is America’s shrink, a social worker and our very own national talk show host. He’s also the Supreme Warlord of the Earth."
This development happens gradually, but with very little sign of reversing itself. The survival of liberty necessitates personal responsibility. If we let our responsibility dry up, our liberty will be soon to follow. While we try to make this world a better place, let us ensure that our means do not liquidate our ultimate end.
Gilson, a business sophomore, can be reached via [email protected].