Is Personal Responsibility Obsolete?

acb46207-5148-4082-9535-ebb6505f90d7Over the last few days, Thomas Sowell has published a two-part series on Is Personal Responsibility Obsolete. As would be expected it is very good. It starts like this.

Among the many disturbing signs of our times are conservatives and libertarians of high intelligence and high principles who are advocating government programs that relieve people of the necessity of working to provide their own livelihoods.

Generations ago, both religious people and socialists were agreed on the proposition that “he who does not work, neither shall he eat.” Both would come to the aid of those unable to work. But the idea that people who simply choose not to work should be supported by money taken from those who are working was rejected across the ideological spectrum.

How we got to the present situation is a long story, but the painful fact is that we are here now. Among the leading minds of our times, including Charles Murray today and the late and great Milton Friedman earlier, there have been proposals for ways of subsidizing the poor without the suffocating distortions of the government’s welfare state bureaucracy.

Professor Friedman’s plan for a negative income tax to help the poor has already been put into practice. But, contrary to his intention to have this replace the welfare state bureaucracy, it has been simply tacked on to all the many other government programs, instead of replacing them.

It is not inevitable that the same thing will happen to Charles Murray’s plan, but I would bet the rent money that there would be the same end result.

Just what specific problem is so dire as to cause some conservatives and libertarians to propose that the government come to the rescue by giving every adult money to live on without working?

Poverty? “Poverty” today means whatever government statisticians in Washington say it means — no more and no less. Most Americans living below the official poverty line today have central air-conditioning, cable television for multiple TV sets, own at least one motor vehicle, and have many other amenities that most of the human race never had for most of its existence.

Most Americans did not have central air-conditioning or cable television as recently as the 1980s. A scholar who spent years studying Latin America has called the poverty line in America the upper middle class in Mexico.

via Is Personal Responsibility Obsolete? – Thomas Sowell

In the second part, he uses the examples of Spain and Saudi Arabia as examples of what usually happens to societies, which in one way or another, usually windfalls, find themselves in situations in which their people no longer have to work, or produce anything. It actually pretty analogous to the winner of one of the big lottery payouts, and has similar results. It seems that societies, as well as people, need the structure of productive work (defined very broadly) to lead successful lives.

The second part is here, Is Personal Responsibility Obsolete?: Part II

I think he’s right, but even if you don’t, it’s a thoughtful look at where our societies are careening to out of control.


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3 Responses to Is Personal Responsibility Obsolete?

  1. Yes, the loss of human personal responsibility is huge today, but this mirrors the loss of humanities moral & spiritual dictates, which we see in both modernity & postmodernity. The latter attacks man’s own ontology and personal being, which was part of the idea of Deconstruction seen in the work of Martin Heidegger (who in WW II belonged to the Nazi Party). And here also Deconstruction as part of the pomo attacks the the Western aspect of the Text: itself! Yes, we are losing the very ground of our personal being today, in both true personhood and in the objective of the Texual reality. What is Truth still rings down through the ages!

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are fast seeing humanities inability to understand and know right from wrong! WE are “deconstructing” ourselves into non-being, or no real being… we have lost the vision of the doctrine and ontology-reality of God/Elohim. Btw see Martin Buber’s Judeo: I-Thou relationship.


      • And without the Judeo and so-called Old Testament/Covenant modern Christianity (again so-called) falls into paganism! True Christianity will always be Judeo! (2 Corinthians 3)


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