People have responsibilities

April 18, 2010

When my sons were young boys, I took the time to acquaint them with the U.S. Constitution and with the idea that there are rules and limits for the government’s behavior just as there are rules and limits for individual behavior. By ‘acquaint’, I mean we read the U.S. Constitution aloud and discussed each article and amendment.

But I also was also careful to point out that if the government doesn’t try to make a safety net – and I don’t think it should try to – then someone else needs to that. And that someone else is all of us.

Bad things happen to people that they can’t control. Courage in the face of adversity is admirable but isn’t always enough for survival; sometimes folks need a hand. It can happen to any of us.

I like to live in a society where there’s some "social surplus": one where, if you happen to fall on hard times, other people have the means, the time and the willingness to give you a hand voluntarily.

When I was near to graduating high school Boyd Goldsworthy, my friend’s dad, offered to help with my college tuition. He assumed (rightly) that paying tuition might be a problem for my family. I didn’t accept his offer since I didn’t go straight from high school to university but I’ve always remembered that he made it.

If we’re all living in penury, we can’t lend a hand. If we’re all so focused on ourselves that we don’t pay attention to what’s going on around us, we won’t lend a hand. But it’s a task reasonable people don’t shirk in my view.

I thought James Lileks made a good point once when he said he’d never seen a hospital called "Libertarian General" – which caused me to recall that the two largest and most respected hospitals where I live are St. John’s Mercy and Missouri Baptist.

All that said, you’ll see why I liked this clip from one of Milton Friedman’s speeches at Stanford back in the 70s.

One comment

  1. […] Penn Jillette wrote, "Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness." In other words, people have responsibilities. […]

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