Thursday, June 13, 2013

Individual responsibility versus statism

A perfect example of how statists clash with those who believe in individual responsibility is playing out over a recent newspaper column by Bill Cosby.  He's been speaking out for many years about the lack of individual and parental responsibility in the black community, most famously in his 'Pound Cake speech' to the NAACP in 2004.  Here are some excerpts from that occasion.

His latest article is titled 'A Plague Called Apathy'.

I’ve said it 100 times, the revolution is in the house. Now if you don’t want to be a part of the revolution, you say to the school system, “I want you to raise my child.” No, the revolution is at home.

Earl Lloyd, the first black NBA basketball player, tells a wonderful story of coming home and his mother said, “Where have you been?” He said, “I was out.” “No, no,” she said, “where have been?” He said, “Momma I was just . . .” She said, I asked you a question; he said, I was on the court. She said, I told you not to be out there with those boys. He said, I wasn’t doing anything.

And she said, “Look, when you’re not in the picture, you can’t be framed.”

Now, that’s the kind of stuff parents need to be doing. Stay away from the guys on the corner fighting to be nothing. The revolution is in the home.

It even happens with celebrities. People knew what Michael Jackson was doing, people knew what Whitney Houston was doing, and then they became addicts.

Michael should have been kept in rehab. Where was the family? Why weren’t they making sure Whitney and Michael got help? Michael, well, why is it that his family stood by and allowed him to have a Dr. Feelgood when they knew Michael had sleep, drug and other problems? Why didn’t Whitney’s family take the crack pipe away from her?

There's more at the link.

In response, Marc W. Polite has written an article on Time magazine's Web site.  He claims that "Bill Cosby's 'Tough Love' Is Counterproductive".

“Personal responsibility” is a theme frequently drawn upon by people addressing the social problems of the day, including problems that black communities face. Public figures issuing calls to action often challenge the role of the individual, although whether it works in better reaching the individuals who need to hear these messages is debatable. The bigger problem is that a message that exclusively focuses on personal responsibility without an accompanying clarion call for society itself to improve gives us only half of the answer.

. . .

There are a great deal of problems in black America and our American society in general. But if Cosby is really interested in combating apathy, it’s important for him to realize that there are larger, outside forces that can cause a sense of hopelessness in affected areas. Without a total picture of what certain communities have to contend with, Cosby’s supposedly well-meaning advice is not just tone-deaf but useless as well.

Again, more at the link.

Mr. Polite's problem is that he can't see the trees for the forest.  He sees the 'big picture' in terms of society, group, race, whatever - but he completely ignores the fact that those larger conglomerations are made up of individuals.  A brick wall is built of many hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands, of individual bricks.  Each has to contribute its own strength to the wall, and the mortar that binds them together has to play its part as well.  Only if all the components are sound will the wall itself be sound.  To the extent that its components are less than sound, the wall will be less strong and less well suited to its purpose.

Those who adopt a statist viewpoint - that it's government's job to cater to the needs of individuals, and groups, and 'society' as a whole - ignore this reality.  Dr. Cosby doesn't.  He sees that a society is built up of individuals, and if care is taken over and attention is paid to the raising and education and formation of those individuals, the society that they form will be sound.  Ignore those steps, and inevitably the society they form will be as shallow, disheveled, decaying and meaningless as they are as individuals.  (Detroit is a living example.)

This, too, is where Hillary Clinton went wrong with her argument that 'It Takes A Village' to raise a child.  It does, indeed, take a village - a village of strong, principled, reliable individuals, each of whom can be relied upon to bring their part in the joint enterprise.  No-one needs to check up on them or supervise them - they're trustworthy people.  Without such constituents, the village will soon become nothing more than a useless agglomeration of demanding, whining, petulant self-seekers.  (Again, see Detroit.)

That's the way it is.  Statists have helped to ensure that it stays that way through their misguided emphasis on the group, rather than the individual.  Unless and until that changes, we're going to be stuck with the problem - and we're going to need more Dr. Cosby's to keep on pointing that out to us, in no uncertain terms.



Dirk said...

Yes. This. A thousand times, this. Society, and the issues Mr. Polite complains about, will greatly improve when individuals improve.

Retired Mustang said...

People, in general, consistently miss one of the truths of life. Freedom, whether from fear, hopelessness, poverty, oppression or anything else is dependent upon a person fully accepting responsibility for the decisions he or she has made. It also requires accepting accountability. Without those two things, freedom is unattainable.

Stuart Garfath, Sydney NSW. said...

It would appear that 'the worm is turning'.
More and more people have had enough with the 'woe is me', welfare-dependant society, a society deliberately constructed by those in power to ensure their remaining in power.
Here in Australia, our current Socialist Federal Government is a Government of give,give, and more give, with absolutely NO thought given to the consequences, both (ironically), 'Socially'; and Economically. In both respects, the damage done will take more than one generation, and more than one Government, to undo, repair and rehabilitate Society and fiscal responsibility.
Our next Federal election is 14 September 2013, MANY millions of Australians are calling it Çlean Up Australia Day'.
We need it.