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Jason Thomas: All care and no responsibility

Jason Thomas, Director of Sinclair Thomas PTY Ltd in Australia, flies the flag for the principle of personal responsibility.

Remember the time when we all took responsibility for our actions?

Think back to when you were kids.  What did your Mum tell you when you were about to do something that could have dangerous or negative consequences?  My mum told me to take responsibility.  I knew the meaning of cause and effect.  And knowing that, I had more freedom to choose.

It was a time when rights where those irrefutable foundation stones upon which two great wars were fought to defend.  Rights to things that are incontrovertible or what Kant called a priori – such as the right to life, right to a fair trial etc, 

It was a time when we understood personal responsibility. Now where one had a responsibility one now has a right.  And the fall back is to blame it on the system.  As people have become less responsible we have more rights than ever before. More often than not these rights are for things that someone else has to provide.

Either we have become huddled incompetents or we simply cannot be trusted anymore. I mean you can’t have a lolly scramble these days without filling out public liability insurance. This issue goes to the very heart of how we educate our children, compensation claims, health, crime, welfare and the litigious nature of society.  It also stigmatises communities into permanent dependence.  It builds a wall of personal limitation.   

The State gives them excuses for their position in life.  Of course Machiavelli would commend this. No wonder government has become bigger than ever. No wonder we're all paying proportionately high tax rates. 

Somehow governments have to pay for all the responsibility the State has assumed. We actually pay people to take less responsibility for their actions.   

Even after being told that something could kill you but you continue to do it, payment for the consequences falls on someone else.

“I became addicted.”

“It’s what my parents did.” 

“Peer pressure, it’s the advertising, those greedy mean corporates.  McDonalds.”

“I’m from a low socio-economic neighbourhood therefore I didn’t know that its not OK to leave my kid in the car on a 40C day with the window up while I play the pokies.”

I’m not saying society should not provide a safety net for those in genuine need, a society that opens its heart to those who cry out for help is one where personal responsibility is understood.

Now I’m going to be provocative here.  In New Zealand the indigenous population has the highest and lowest rates of socio demographic figures in all the wrong areas.  Crime, drugs, alcoholism, diabesity, heart disease, domestic violence. But it is not their fault - middle class Europeans are to blame because of colonialism.  Their position is also reinforced by the State through an endless, rapacious grievance industry that only benefits the lawyers and policy advisors.

Take this whole area of obesity.  Or what has now become known as diabesity. Who is to blame? McDonalds, KFC, fast-food, playstation, computers?  The solution offered is to ban advertising, put a tax on junk food, sue McDonalds, whilst the personal responsibility message is always at a low volume.  As if McDonalds forced people at gun point to buy a Big Mac for morning, lunch and dinner.  As if the TV had hand-cuffed you to the couch. 

If you want to eat your way to insatiable oblivion go for it.  But you must take responsibility for the consequences.  You cannot expect society to pick up the tab.

That is what Baroness Thatcher meant when she said there is no such thing as society. Without the individuals taking responsibility for their lives and the lives of their family, then society fails to exist as a well functioning harmonious microcosm of our nation.

As Ronald Reagan attempted in his 1985 State of the Union speech we need to rebuild the path between rights and responsibilities. As individuals we will be better for it. As families we will be better for it. As communities and as nation we will all be better for it.


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