What Ever Happened to Personal Responsibility: A Rant

by Cameron Schaefer on September 1, 2008

“Life’s about choices,” said a college professor of mine.  He taught finance and would impart to my classmates and me the importance of the decisions we all have as to how we use our money, time and resources.  It was his mantra and something that he passed on, not only to his students, but his children as well.

For instance, he recalled an experience when his 8-year-old daughter and him were going on a walk around the neighborhood.  He had told her to take her jacket because it was cold outside. “No, I don’t need it,” she proclaimed.  He explained to her that she would get cold if she didn’t have her jacket, yet she still insisted she didn’t need it.  “O.K.,” he said and they went on the walk.

A few blocks in she began grumbling about how cold it was and rubbing her arms.  What did my professor do?  Did he cut the walk off short?  Did he take off his jacket and lovingly place it around his daughter?  No, he made her walk the rest of the way home freezing her butt off.  “Life’s about choices,” he explained to his daughter.

60 years ago people reading this article would say of this example, “Well done, he taught his daughter a valuable lesson.”  But today, many reading this would cry, “Child Abuse!”  “It was the father’s fault for not making her take her jacket!”  “You can’t blame the daughter, she didn’t know, she can’t be held responsible!”

This is what’s wrong with our society.  We’ve become a people that hold everyone responsible, but ourselves.

Never before have I seen so much blame being placed on everyone, but the person in the mirror.  People waving angry fingers at big oil companies for high gas prices rather than blaming themselves for owning two S.U.V.’s and a boat.  They completely ignore the law of supply and demand expecting that somehow prices will remain stagnant as consumption drastically increases.

This is like writing an angry letter to Hostess snack foods complaining about your recent weight gain while shoving 30 Twinkies in your gullet.  Life’s about choices.

Or how about the debt-ridden homeowner’s shouting about the foul play of mortgage lenders who “deceived them” (code for I didn’t do my homework) and gave them their houses much too easily then DEMANDING government bail out for a house they had no business purchasing in the first place.  Since when is your poor financial planning and decision making the government’s problem.

As Justice Casey Percell said, “It is not the responsibility of the government or the legal system to protect a citizen from himself.”  You made a poor choice, take your lumps and move on.

Is the economy in a slump, yes.  But, who is really to blame?  “Most of our economic wounds are self-inflicted, stemming from our inability to live within our means,” says Knight Kiplinger, Editor in Chief of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine.

Many Americans live in a house — and drive a car — that eats up too much of their monthly budget. They dine out when they could be eating at home, and they indulge their children with trendy clothes. They mistake wants for needs.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love America.  I believe in America and what it stands for.  This is why something needs to change – and instead of demanding it from everyone else it has to start with us.  Government bailout is not the answer, it will only prolong and maybe even exacerbate the problem.

As Herbert Spencer aptly spoke, “The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

Punishing corporations for their profits is not the answer, this will only send the message that in America you can try to be successful, but if you are too successful we’ll start taking your money.  The answer lies in doing our homework and making the right choices.  After all, at the end of the day it’s about taking a coat when it looks like it’s chilly outside.  You can choose not to, it’s true, but don’t whine when you get cold.  Life’s about choices.

{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

Marcus July 24, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Im glad that there are others that still know how to think, and i like that we share the same opinion.

matthew December 14, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Responding to number 10: Even being responsible and careful doesn’t give us a right to having everything work out correctly for us.

Part of being careful and responsible is considering the future and putting aside for that rainy day. And there are days when the rain is beyond what our rainy day fund can survive, or when it is the fund itself that is rained upon.

None of these circumstances gives us the right to blame anybody besides ourselves for what has occurred. And if we can’t blame ourselves, there may just be nobody to blame, reasonably.

The problem with the blame game, no matter how qualified, is that there is no way to get back what was lost through placing the blame anywhere besides ourselves justly. Only we can pull ourselves back up, and therefore only ourselves can be responsible.

Sabrina June 23, 2010 at 6:13 am

As a mother and a grandmother, I think you analogy regarding th 8 year old without a jacket is a flawed one. Blaming a CHILD for something the father should’ve know better? How much you wanna bet that if that had been the mother, everyone would’ve blamed the mother with no problem? Seems to me that conservatives are very convenient about where theyplace blame. They blame the victims, they blame those who may really and truly not be culpable…but when it comes to the “big dogs” the power mongers and just the straight up meanspirited, there’s a wellspring of excuses out there that are given out to people. How many politicians make excuses for their extramarital affairs? Far too many. Did Rush Limbaught vocally take personal responsibility when he had his drug issue? Does Sarah Palin EVER take personal responsibility for anything…such as the fact while she’s out there stumping and preaching abstinence her daughter goes out and gets pregnant? Yes, it is partially her fault because Palin is always touting “family values” and abstinence but is she even home being a REAL mother? Think about some of those things before you judge others!

Carl Braun August 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Excellent . . . well said. Several years ago, in one of my philosophical moments, I had a tee shirt made up with the inscription “Personal Responsibility . . . Get some!”. I was surprised how many people that asked me what that meant. Thanks for verbalizing my thoughts.

Bedste Højskole October 3, 2011 at 10:23 am

Thank you for posting this. Gave me something to think about :)!

Brandon Miller February 23, 2012 at 11:53 pm

This Article truly articulates why we, as Americans are in the state we are. It’s prevalent that some of those who read the article are still willing to place blame on others and look to someone else for help. It is important to note that the behavior displayed in this article, in speaking of the lesson learned by the little girl, is a lesson that many people lacked as a child. We are a product of our environment and those that would blame others for their actions, or failures to act, should try to remember where they were and what they were doing when our economy began to take a fall. As individuals we have made choices that reflect the state of the poor economy, the elected official corruption, the price of gas, and the general state of the nation. For those that would complain about political corruption, remember that it was you and those like you that chose Sarah Palin to be in charge, President Obama to be our leader, G.W.Bush to be President at the time of the war. You Elected the Officials that voted to invade the sovereign nation of Iraq. When will hold you accountable. did we forget that it was our decision to send our troops to fight…and fight they did. Before we point fingers and blame people for Gas prices, ask yourselves what you have done to conserve on gas, ask yourself what car you drive or if you drive or ride a bike to work/school, where ever. Its the Law of supply and demand….and demand is getting higher and higher. What have you done to change things? What have you sacrificed for your country? Your family? Where were you and what were you doing? These are the questions we should ask ourselves. I believe in standing behind the choices we make and adhering to a set of values that I learned as a child. After all, I walked outside without my coat too. Difference is….no one stopped me.

A Porter May 24, 2014 at 1:02 pm

The professor could have taught his daughter a lesson without being cruel.

It is funny who is expected to take responsibility and who is not.

Not Freedom Industry when it poisoned the Elk River in WV. State and local government is cleaning up their mess.

Not members of congress who, for political expediency – Kerry and Hillary, voted to give Bush cart blanc to invade Iraq.

Not mortgage brokers and loan officers who gave loans, and encouraged people to take loans, knowing they couldn’t pay them back, but so what? They’d take their cut and pass them off to someone else, let someone else get caught holding the bag – like pension funds who thought tripleA meant something.

Not the rating agencies who gave triple A ratings to collaterized bags of crap.

The list is endless.

newyorktraumaattorne.newsvine.com June 26, 2014 at 11:17 pm

Goood day! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask.
Would yyou be interested in exchanging lihks or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa?
My website discusses a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other.
If you are interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail.
I look forward to hearing from you! Terrific blog by the way!

Linda January 7, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Action requires kneolwdge, and now I can act!

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