In a perfect world, where every decision can be
undone and people fully embrace the other three core values, Responsibility
for Others is simply a moral imperative, rather than a key democratic
ideal. In that perfect world, people accept accountability for their
own actions, but not responsibility for another's mistakes. They
might choose to help a stranger in distress, and in doing so (by
the Golden Rule), encourage that stranger to be helpful in return;
but neither are forced to cooperate.
Yet the world is imperfect. The facts required
to make a sound decision are often hidden. Harm often emerges from
the the actions (or inactions) of groups, making it difficult to
assign culpability. Leaders may be accountable for their actions,
but if the remedy is unrealizable (such as bringing a child poisoned
by unsanitary food back to life), the government must step in.
Our long democratic history
supports the concept of a "greater good". Religious and
civil organizations take it upon themselves to build libraries,
run soup kitchens, and volunteer at nonprofit hospitals. Individuals
sacrifice their free time to tutor an immigrant in English. And
governments take on responsibilities, such as defense or environmental
regulation or social security, where no individual can hope to be
Our responsibility for others is a heavy burden-
we may act too soon, or with a leaden hand, or without good cause.
And we may choose poorly. But a society that does not recognize
a responsibility to others loses the right to be called civilized.
Government and individuals share a responsibility
to help others. The government can and should encourage individuals
to exercise this responsibility, providing those actions are not
in violent conflict with other democratic core values. Charitable
deductions can be one such incentive. If a charity uses their assets
to promote their own moral agenda as well as helping others, they
are well within their rights. However, if the government has abdicated
its public responsibility by delegating the public good to charities
with strong moral biases as a subterfuge to advance that moral agenda,
such charitable deductions would be inappropriate.
Evolution in School
Absolutely! To deny the truth of Evolution and its
role in shaping life on Earth, is to deny reality. Evolution is
among the most well confirmed of scientific discoveries, and it
would be irresponsible to raise children ignorant of reality, and
unprepared to participate as adults in a world that depends more
and more on integrating complex scientific decisions into society.
We have a responsibility to teach children to think
for themselves. Thus, it is very important to teach the scientific
method, and (for older children) that science itself evolves and
changes as new facts emerge. In that context, Intelligent Design
can be taught as an example of a flawed, nonscientific theory (somewhere
between Alchemy and Astrology in validity), to help students develop
their critical thinking skills.
are millions of abortions which might not
occur if more couples were open to adoption. There are millions of
orphans or abandoned children who need to be raised by loving parents
with appropriate nurturing skills. Studies show committed gay couples
are at least as successful as traditional couples in raising healthy
children. Our responsibility to children requires us to employ every
resource at our disposal- and gay couples (and in some cases individuals)
are one such resource that is under used and maligned.
We should be free to use our own property, and to
use it unwisely. So we can plant cotton, even though it is a profligate
consumer of water and energy- and let the capitalistic system decide
our fate. We should be free to cut down trees, shoot deer, and dam
rivers on our property. But only to a point.
Like it or not, we all live together on one planet,
with one atmosphere, one supply of water and one connected ecosystem.
Volcanoes in the Pacific cause atmospheric haze which cause crop
failures in Europe. Burning coal in the American West drops pollutants
on the East which lead to numerous childhood diseases. While lawsuits
and accountability can sometimes resolve these interacting conflicts,
in many cases the damage is unrepairable. A dead species is lost
forever. The 50,000 lives lost a year to air pollution in America
are gone forever. Florida flooded by global warming is lost for
millennia. In these cases, there is a strong responsibility to defer
narrow, temporal human property rights in favor of the greater long
term good. Sensible regulation, informed by unbiased science and
balancing social needs, are the result.
In general, the individual Freedom to Be extends
from parents to their children. Government and neighbors may suggest,
but not dictate, how other people's children are raised. This is
true even if the parents raise their children to accept blatantly
erroneous facts- such as the inferiority of blacks, or that women
have one fewer rib than men. As long as such guidance is reversible
when the child becomes an adult and assumes independent decision
making power, the family is king.
However, some parental decisions are not reversible.
These include physical dangers (child abuse, not wearing a motorcycle
helmet, ..) and medical decisions (denying critical blood transfusions,
avoiding inoculations, ...). In these cases, the government must
intervene to avoid permanent damage to the child or to society.
Adults enjoy a near right perfect right to modify their body as they see fit- including mutilation, decoration or even amputation. But such rights cannot be imposed on a minor, because many of these modifications cannot be undone at 18. Our responsibility as parents is to teach our children well, but our past actions should not t limit their options once emancipated as free-thinking adults.
Thus, adults cannot permit their minor children to be tattooed. To be circumcised. To have plastic surgery except as medically necessary. As our children age and mature, their ability to think independently grows, and depending upon the child, their wishes should be honored by their parents and caregivers.
There is no doubt the Constitution protects gun
ownership. And, for many in society, gun collecting and hunting
is a way of life for themselves and their community. So gun ownership
should never be outlawed in the US. However, guns are dangerous
weapons and are often misused with disastrous consequences. The
need for accountability, and responsibility for others requires
gun ownership to exist in balance with sensible regulation. This
regulation (as in a "well regulated militia") should be
consistent with the regulation of other balanced rights -such as
the freedom to travel balanced by the licensing of drivers. So gun
ownership should be permitted; all guns must be registered; all
users must pass a licensing test, and mandatory insurance must be
purchased to pay for those times when people use guns unwisely.
Gun regulations are not a "conspiracy"
to violate the Constitution- instead, they reinforce and strengthen
this democratic right by assuring gun misuse will not someday result
in their banning.
cell research, intervening in foreign lands, immigration, zoning laws..
golden rule - responsibility for others - freedom to be - accountability for actions - four core values - links - contact
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