Social responsibility vs. Personal responsibility

 In recent years there has been a large shift in our society.  We were once a society based on personal responsibility.  This was the primary ethic we strove to teach our children.  Slowly that focus has shifted toward teaching social responsibility.  This topic came to mind the other day when I noticed that when I speak to my liberal friends about crimes or tragedy they instinctively focus or make statements regarding the perpetrator.  It seems to soothe or calm them to find a reason for the action.  They will bend over backwards to find the “shades of grey” that justify the criminals actions.  Example:

Hey Liberal friend, did you hear about that guy who went to his workplace and shot up the place?  “Yeah, that was really sad.  He had just been fired and was having a hard time feeding his family.”

At which point I usually become frustrated,  Let me explain my stance.  Wrong is wrong and causation is irrelevant.  Also the sympathy is misplaced.  Shooting rampages are ALWAYS wrong.  The victims were the injured/dead, and their families not the shooter.  If I say it is wrong to steal, it immediatly becomes a discussion of trying to find a circumstance that I would agree that it would be morally acceptable to steal.  (So far I have only agreed to lengthy plots involving someone kidnapping a loved one, I have no means of asking for help from the authorities, there is no means of communication between me and my victim that I may beg for their charity, and the end result of my theft would result in the greater good of mankind.  At this point I was tired of the scenarios and was agreeable just to end the conversation.) 

One of my liberal friends was telling me how impressed he was with his children’s school teaching social responsibility.  He said that his children are required to perform 20 hours of community service before they can graduate.  Here is my problem.  Who determines what is and is not community service?  Also, since this is a requirement, it is no longer charity.  The child is not learning to do something out of the goodness of their heart.  It is just forced labor.  The school is in essence requiring 20 hours of forced labor. 

The movement away from personal responsibility has been to societies demise.  Worrying about how to save the world especially at a young age can be overwhelming and disheartening.  Perhaps the real intent of this change is to break the spirit of the youth in America.  The American spirit has always been a driving factor in the success of our country. 

It is more important to learn how to be responsible for your own actions.  Social responsibility will grow out of personal responsibility.  You can not care for others if you do not first know how to care for yourself.  Further, when you truly learn to be responsible for yourself you learn it is in your best interest to be a good steward of others and the world around you.  Personal responsibility is the only way to teach true social cohesion.  Teaching Social responsibility is sort of  losing the forest for the trees.  When our children are not taught personal responsibility they experience life as what happened to them rather than what they accomplished.  Without personal responsibility you can never truly appreciate the rewards of accomplishment and you only experience life as a victim.  Entitlement is the end result.  Then with the focus on social responsibility each feels as if they are entitled to a perfect world without knowing how to accomplish anything.  Entitlement and accomplishment are polar opposites.  Entitlement results in fear and pain.  Accomplishment in happiness and productivity.  Since the founding of our country is has been the most successful.  I attribute that to our ability to take responsibility.  This social conciousness is very perverse in many ways.  Truly the most compassionate thing you can do for your fellow-man and society is to expect him to be responsible for himself.  New York, do you honestly expect me to believe that taking away table salt from restraunts is the socially responsible thing to do?  Liberals believe, or are trying to create a health epidemic in America.  Some believe that citizens are too stupid to feed themselves.  Apparently, there is a large segment of the population in New York that are so addicted to salt, that its mere pressence requires them to pour copious amounts into their gullet.  Their saving grace is that they are too stupid to bring their drug of choice with them when dining out.  Personally I rarely put additional salt on my food, but who is the government to tell me I couldn’t if I so choose?  By expecting personal responsibility out of others and allowing people to fail you are helping them to learn to succeed on their own.  There are some who don’t get it, and never will.  Yes it is painful to watch people fail, but they and others learn from failure.  Failure is the key to success.  When you reward failure, or prevent it you are postponing or completely eliminating their future success.  When a person loses his/her job they can receive unemployment.  What is the purpose of unemployment?  To ease a persons burden in hard times and unfortunate circumstances?  Does this actually prolong the pain?  I have a friend who lost his job.  He is a very capable single guy with no one to take care of but himself.  He could have had a job in a month with less pay, and not necessarily what he would like to do, but it would keep him fed.  Instead my friend decided to stay on unemployment for a year.  He received the benefits to the full extent of the law at the time.  When he was no longer eligible, presto he had a job.  Who could blame him?  I would have done the same thing.  It is an inherent rule in nature that an organism seeks the maximum benefit with the least amount of effort.  That’s why predators go after the sick, young, and the old.  If I lost my job, I would use the benefit probably much in the same way, and delay my success.  If the benefit was not available, my kids and I would survive.  I would find creative ways to succeed.  No job would be beneath me.  Need me to scrub toilets?  Kids gotta eat.  Need me to flip burgers? Kids gotta eat.  Hell I would even take a job removing salt shakers from New York restraunts to keep my kids from going hungry.  (Trust me, for me that would be the hardest job possible.  I would need to shower immediately afterward)

Definitions of Social responsibility on the Web:


Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” – Douglas Adams

No man was ever endowed with a right without being at the same time saddled with a responsibility.” – Gerald W. Johnson

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” – Stanislaw J. Lec

We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” – Ronald Reagan

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity an obligation; every possession, a duty.” – John D. Rockefeller

The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others.” – Don Shula

Nothing happens by itself. It all will come your way, once you understand that you have to make it come your way, by your own exertions.” – Ben Stein

Provision for others is a fundamental responsibility of human life.” – Woodrow T. Wilson*  This quote is only put in here as an example of the Progressive/Liberal/Socialist mindset.  On the surface it sounds nice, but in implimentation it is an impossible task that is siezed on to collect power for the government.


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10 Responses to Social responsibility vs. Personal responsibility

  1. Sweetiebv says:

    You had me mentally screaming ‘yes’ to every sentence of this blog. Very nicely written and I put salt on lots of things because I want to. I am an adult and I am aware of the consequences of too much salt. 🙂 I can understand informing and educating others, but mandating and forcing people in things that we consider part of personal freedom is ineffective and in psychology/substance abuse terminology is called creating codependence.

    Instead of ‘family’ in the follow definition of codependence insert ‘society’:
    “A dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving developed during childhood by family rules. Also a set of *maladaptive, *compulsive behaviors learned by family members in order to survive in a family which is experiencing *great emotional pain and stress.
    *maladaptive – inability for a person to develop behaviors which get needs met.
    *compulsive – psychological state where a person acts against their own will or conscious desires in which to behave. ”

    Our ‘society’ is going the way of creating a nation of codependent people.

  2. The Crawfish says:

    Well done, my neighbor. I have now put you on the blog list at Crawfish’s Claw.

  3. Jacordx says:

    While researching ethics and social responsibility for a paper on public health, I was fortunate to stumble across your post. I’ll say upfront that there were a couple of times I laughed at your references to your liberal friends; I am a raging liberal. A tree-hugging-bleeding-heart-hippie-Democrat liberal. I see a need for public health care and for providing programs that educate or reform and make more productive citizens. I think we do owe something, not everything, to the less fortunate of our society simply because we are supposed to be the best nation in the world and yet other countries surpass us in health care and education. That said, I agree with the majority of the pionts you outlined. I believe that we should have a healthy dose of social reponsibility but its worthless without a strong foundation of personal or individual responisility. In losing, or more accuratly, discarding personal responsiblity, we are setting up future generations to fail. I AM my brother’s keeper, I believe this to my core, however what good does this do anyone if I can’t first take care of myself and my family, my direct circle of influence. We focus more on “solving” everyone else’s problems without examining our own issues.
    I don’t want to club baby seals or burn down rainforrests but the idea of “saving the planet” is complete crap. Our planet has been around for millions of years and will continue to be around for millions of years after we are long gone. We down’t want to save our planet, we want to save our cushy way of life on our planet. It’s our disconnected arrogence that creates our savior complex while ignoring genuine and immediate problems that we gloss over or turn a blind eye to.
    We have become a nation of blamers, we have knee-jerk reactions and we are all morally outraged at _____________ <—-insert political incorrectness here. It would be comical if it weren't so ugly. We need to face our own faults and put our own homes right before we can even think of assisting others.

    • Thanks for the great reply. Come back often to see other posts. Good luck with your paper. I fully protect your right to be your brothers keeper and encourage it. That is the choice we all should make on our own without the Government requiring it. I caution you that there becomes a fine line between helping and enabling.

  4. It comes down to remove the plank from your own eye before the splinter of mine…

  5. ec says:

    It’s more complicated than that. Unfortunately the debate is framed wrongly by both sides. Responsibility is not a zero-sum thing. There is plenty of blame to go around. Each drug addict is 100% responsible for screwing up his life. We should pity him, but not make excuses for him. That does not mean that society cannot, sometimes, *also* be responsible for drug addiction. Each criminal is 100% responsible for the crime he commits and should be punished accordingly. That does not mean society cannot, sometimes, also be responsible for crimes. If society is already as just as it can be and if injustice does not lead to any crimes, addictions, etc., then society is not responsible for those things. If society could have prevented the addictions or the crimes by being more just, then society is responsible for them. In either case, individuals are fully responsible for their free choices.


    • What would be an example of society causing an individuals addiction? Would it be the society making the drug illegal, or, the society providing needles for illegal drug use? would it be the glorifying of drug use by the media? No matter what you do you can not make a society just, because life is not fair. Take care of your personal responsibility, and expect it of others. Your only social responsibility is to take care of your personal responsibility.

  6. Patricia Rossi says:

    I watch the Tea Party and Operation Wall Street and I wonder: Is it impossible for people who believe in personal responsibility to rally WITH people who believe in social responsibility? I strongly believe in both. I searched the two terms and found your post. Thank you. I agree. These two forms of responsibility go hand in hand. To claim social responsibility, you must demonstrate personal responsibility (doing your part, your fair share and/or your very best). To claim personal responsibility, you must demonstrate social responsibility (awareness of others, a willingness to share when one has much and one’s neighbors little). Like your liberal friends perhaps, I strictly vote Democratic, yet you and I may heartily agree. Maybe it’s time for Americans to look past the outdated stereotypes that are constantly thrust upon us– conservatives crying personal responsibility, and liberals, social responsibility, doing battle, one against the other. These hard lines are drawn by politicians and the media to divide rather than to unite us. If you and I can heartily agree, maybe there is a middle ground in this country, a silent middle majority that shares a common goal that we can bring to fruition in the voting booth: “personal AND social responsibility . . . across the 100%”.

  7. A big conflict between personal and social responsibility comes when you have much and your neighbor has little, but you work hard and your neighbor either doesn’t work hard or work at all. Your neighbor takes jobs that give them plenty of free time and a set schedule that never encroaches on their personal time, but does not pay them very well. Then that neighbor, who has made the choice to have more leisure time and less work time (probably less time spent in education or training as well) then wants you to feel responsible to make up the difference when he is short of funds to live at the standard of living he expects as a baseline for any member of society.

    Perhaps you don’t feel the need to make up this difference, as it’s not the difference in starvation, but the difference in having cable and a second car. So the neighbor gets all his bum friends together and votes in politicians that basically pass laws so that the police can come take some of your stuff and give it to your neighbor until the government is satisfied that the difference if your standards of living is not too great.

    While you may have felt compassion to help someone in genuine need, how do you feel about working harder to subsidize the leisure time of others?

  8. Pingback: Taking Personal Responsibility - Adam Goldfein

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