Monday, September 14, 2009

Of Government and Men: Personal Accountability

It may seem strange to write about a personal trait in a series about the government and its responsibilities. This series has been dedicated to what I think are some of the most important philosophies behind our government. So why a post dedicated to a personal trait found in individuals?

In today's world of buzz words, "accountability" usually means being held responsible for something, and not always in a good way. Holding an employee “accountable for their actions” is a good example. However, personal accountability can also be used to apply to the everyday things. For example, you are "accountable" for your day to day actions. You are "accountable" for your job, your own health, and your happiness. We are not guaranteed happiness, a gold plated health plan, a great job, or even a home. The government doesn't have the duty, or even the power, to provide you with these things. Remember, anything the government can give you, the government can also take away.

I believe the problem with many of our issues today is that we have stopped looking to provide for ourselves. We want someone to give us a nice house, two cars, and a check. If they will take care of us (through "free" healthcare), then maybe we are willing to sacrifice a little freedom for it. The truth of the matter is that you are the one responsible for your life. This is a hard lesson, but life forces all of us to make choices. Some of those choices we may not like, and we may not like the results of some of those choices. However, only you can make those choices, and you are the one responsible for their outcomes. When you let someone else decide your life, you are still responsible for it, because you have given that person or that group the ability to make choices for you.

There may be situations that are beyond your control, but that doesn’t change the fact that you, and not the government, are responsible for your life. If you lose your job, you must decide what to do next, not President Obama. The President can make our nation more or less likely to create new jobs, but for the most part he can’t affect your individual employment.

If there is only one lesson you learn from this series, I hope that it is the following:

You are responsible for your own life, not the government. Your life is what you decide to make of it for better or worse.

You should be an active participant in government so that we can all try to keep the government from throwing roadblocks in our way. You should pay attention to politics and to what candidates do so that you know how the government may affect your life. However, how you react to changes in the government or in your personal life are up to you. These lessons have been forgotten by many in elected positions today. I believe the bailouts under President Bush, and the continued bailouts under President Obama are wrong because they violate this principle. By allowing companies or individuals to be classified as “too big to fail” the government restricts the freedom of those companies and their competitors. When the government provides money to a company to protect it from failing, it suddenly gains power in that company. We can look at GM and the firing of its CEO by the President to see this in real life. The President shouldn’t be able to fire any employee in the private sector.

When the government invests in a company, that company’s competitors are suddenly at a distinct disadvantage. How is it a good idea for the government to decide which companies should be successful and which ones should fail? Those who support the auto bailouts should ask if they would support an oil-industry bailout under President Bush.

Personal Accountability at the personal, corporate, and government level means that we are each responsible for our own successes and failures. The more we forget that, and the more we allow laws to “protect us from ourselves” the more we lose our freedoms. It may feel good to try and protect people from themselves, but there is no way to do that without restricting their freedoms. How many laws would we have on the books today if the laws were clearly spelled out in terms of what that law prevents you from doing instead of what the law might give you?


Kevin said...

Personal accountability and personal responsibility are very important and seem to be reduced every year.

I think it is a what came first the chicken or the egg type thing. Did the government pick up the peoples slack or did people get slack because they knew/wanted the government to pick up the slack.

Mr. Obama's speech to the school kids talked about personal responsibility if I remember correctly. They are responsible for their education and he would accept no excuses. Which is sort of hypacritcal considering he went back to the White House to work on the government taking on more responsibility in our lives.

Seattle Dave said...

@ packe

-reduced by who? Surely, accountability and responsibility, or lack there of, is a parenting issue. So, parents are reducing the importance of both year after year?

The government isn't responsible for, and has no bearing, on whether or not we teach our children about responsibility and accountability. The lies soley and squarely in the hands of the parents.

If out children grow up, take no responsibility for their lives, their health, etc. and have no personal accountability when they do something wrong, then I would take a step back and take a look at how we are as parents.

Andy D said...

I think Pack is talking about adults lacking personal accountability. If I had to guess, I would say this really started to get out of hand during the Depression when people believed the goverment was the only one big enough to save them. That is when individuals really started to rely on the government to solve their problems.

Dave I think there is some truth to what you say as well. Accountability and Responsibility should be taught at school, but if it isn't taught in the home, it won't take.

Seattle Dave said...

I think I disagree with you Andy, tbh.

Responsibility and accountability are two fundamental values that should be taught in the home. School should be the arena where those values are reinforced. I can't speak for anyone else, but that's how it was for me growing up.

And I understand what Packe is saying, in terms of adults. I'm simply pointing out that the problem starts much earlier in the developmental lifecycle, therefore you can't blame the government for any lack of the two, which is what packe's first statement would imply.

You know my Father, and I'm sure your wife has told you about her father and mine, and how their family was growing up. My father had no qualms with teaching me responsibility from a very early age. If more parents took that responsibility on, and placed a higher level of importance on it, we wouldn't have to worry about whether or not the government is, or isn't, giving out handouts.

Most of the issues in our country can be traced back to early life development.

However, that is a conversation that could take hours upon hours to have, and be deeper than anything we discuss here.

Andy D said...

Dave, I agree. These traits should be taught in the home and reinforced at school. Kudos.

Rebecca said...

I agree with you about being responsible, and I agree that responsibility and accountability should be taught from a young age. However, some things I don't agree with.

First of all, I believe health care is a basic right of all people, not a privilege for only those that can afford it. Health care shouldn't be about making a profit but about people having access to a decent quality of life.

I believe that we need to be responsible and accountable for our own lives, but that can only go so far. There are things beyond our control. I lost my job in Jan. and haven't been able to find anything since! I lost my livelihood and I have no idea what I'm gonna go if I don't find an income soon. If the government can help me out in any way, I'm all for it.

Andy D said...

Is Health Care a right or Health Insurance? If you are sick or break a leg you can go to an emergency room and be treated. How you pay for that is up to you. I think it should continue to be up to you and the government shouldn't dictate my health insurance.

I hope you find a job soon. I like your blog, and hope you don't quit it for lack of funding :). There are government programs on the books right now that can help you with insurance. I don't know if you would qualify for them or not, but check them out.

Many people (not necessarily you or Dave) are arguing for "free, universal health care". Many of the President's goals with health care reform (coverage with no waiting period, no preexisting conditions, and no exclusions based on health or lifestyle) will drive the cost up,not down. That means "free" care can only be free if someone else pays for it. That person may be a Bill Gates or a Bruce Willis, or they may be a struggling family that is just slightly better off than you. Either way, someone else will pay so others can go to the doctor for any reason they decide to go.