Tag Archives: Federal government of the United States

Theory of Personal Responsibility

8-year-old boy with Down Syndrome
8-year-old boy with Down Syndrome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am responsible for me.

This means first that I must act in a way that is responsible for myself. Live out the consequences of my choices without needlessly burdening others.  Other have their own troubles and their own responsibilities. When we each who are capable live in this way we both free others to do the same and free ourselves to be more able to help those who truly are needy.

It is a paradox that those who are most self-sufficient are those most capable of helping those who are not.

Existing social structures are each responsible in turn: Family follows the self, then friends, then community and civic/social groups, then local government, then state government, then federal government. This does not mean the federal government is the ultimate authority. It means that the federal government is only authority when and in circumstances where all other levels have either failed, abdicated, or are incapable on sufficient scale to bear any given responsibility. This is the same for each succeeding layer of responsibility: Family is only responsible for that which the individual is not capable of being responsible for. An infant is capable of very little in themselves, so the family is responsible for them, but the family is also responsible for raising that infant to take responsibility to the utmost of it’s capability. When the family fails, or a situation gets beyond, or is beyond, the family’s capability, greater numbers of involved and invested and capable people, friends that is, then share in the responsibility. This does not have to be only in serious situations, it could be when children go off to play together at each others houses, friends share in responsibilities to the benefit of all. Then communities such as churches, clubs, social circles and the like, to which we have voluntarily joined ourselves, bear a certain level of responsibility.

You can see the graduating layers as each successive level bears some responsibility innately and then gains certain responsibility based on specific situations and circumstances. The way to visualize this is as a pyramid: The individual has ultimate responsibility, that is, first and last. While others may become responsible at different times and in different situations, the individual has first responsibility and will answer at the end for all that pertains to them whether others were involved or not. Each successive and broadening layer then goes down, not up, in authority over the individual and over each successive layer. This leaves federal government not as the ultimate responsible party but as the last responsible party. In some ways this last position equates with “least”. It is last in priority, and therefore has least priority in the layers that stand above it. It is not a foundational position either. The foundational responsibility can only belong to something outside, something not us. God does not form a layer below the federal government, God forms the all-encompassing framework inside which the entire pyramid exists.

The second outcome of self-responsibility is that each successive layer of responsibility ought to generally, as a matter of course, act in a way that is not-responsible towards those layers that are above it in priority. Family only takes responsibility for the individual when and where that individual is incapable of being self-responsible. Friends, only when and where the family is beyond it’s capability. And so on. The various layers of government ought only bear that responsibility for which all other layers are incapable or not suited. This does not mean that each successive layer out to act antagonistically to those layers above it in responsibility, but ought instead to build up each layer in order that those other layers are MORE capable, and so that responsibility only falls upon the lower layers when all else has failed. In other words, the family ought to build up the individual so that the family is less necessary, and less likely to be called upon to support that individual as it matures and takes on more responsibility for itself. The friends ought to build up the family and the individual in the same way, and the community ought to do the same for the friends and the family and the individual, and so on. This structure of reinforced and supported and encouraged responsibility results in the strongest communities, the strongest families, the strongest nations, because each individual and each successive layer of responsibility is invest in those that take priority above it, and as each successive layer is made as strong as it can, the entire structure can bear much weight and stress in times where responsibility increases or situations change for any given layer.

The federal government, then, ought to be primarily invested not in centralizing responsibility, authority, and power to itself, but instead in divesting authority. Not delegating, for that implies that it retains ultimate responsibility and is superior to those layers which are in fact superior to it. But divesting authority, actually giving it away (or, more realistically, having it taken away) to those layers which it ought to instead be supporting and reinforcing so that they are able and capable of bearing more and more responsibility and authority.

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Media: Can’t Be Bothered By Facts

SANTA MONICA, CA - APRIL 15:  Five-year-old Ka...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

When reporting a story, context is everything. When making a statement, context is everything. When communicating, it is important to include context in your communication if you really want to be understood.

There are two reasons context is left out of communication: ignorance or underhandedness.

Ignorant context-dropping results in faux paus and jokes we tell over a beer. Underhanded context-dropping is what we read in the media.

Come on, it’s not all that bad. They’re writing and writing and maybe they assume we know what they’re talking about, or maybe they are really that dumb. They can’t be doing it maliciously or for nefarious causes!

Judge for yourself.

If you’re talking about stem cells there are two very different forms with very different moral surroundings and very different legal arrangements. It is important to specify which type of stem cell is being discussed because that bit of information is necessary to an accurate understanding of the topic at hand.

I’ve been over the various types of stem cells here on I, Pandora before. The short version is that there are adult stem cells that usually come from adipose (fat) tissue of the person who will be receiving the tissue. No babies destroyed. And there are embryonic stem cells which are harvested from “unwanted” embryos and then applied to other people.

There are several different considerations regarding stem cells, but you can read up on them yourself.

In recent reporting on the stem cell issue, as the Obama Administration and this new government has tried to allow embryonic stem cell research, you would have been hard pressed to find, in reading headlines, any clarification as to which type of stem cells were being talked about. Nor would you have heard anything about President Bush not having prohibited embryonic stem cell research. Apparently the writers of the news didn’t think these facts was significant information or material to the discussion.

So there are the differences with where the stem cells come from, big deal, you may say. There are also significant differences between success rates with treatments using the various types of cells. Check around for yourself, but there have been zero successful treatments using embryonic stem cells, and that despite the fact that evil President Bush did not stop all embryonic stem cell research and that annoying detail that research using embryonic stem cells has attracted vastly more government money than treatment using adult stem cells. There have been thousands of successful treatments using adult stem cells for all types of conditions.

So I think it is important that we clarify which type of stem cells we’re talking about. It’s not until the end of the fourth paragraph in this story, after they’ve lost many of the readers who are now fuming at how anti-science and downright medieval that judge is. By George, he must be a Bush appointee!

The second issue is brought on by President Obama recognizing he is not making sense to enough people with all his efforts to create a command economy. So he’s trying to speak in a language more people understand: tax cuts.

So he’s trying to pass tax cuts for the poor and let all those tax cuts the rich currently enjoy expire. A couple problems: the poor don’t currently pay much of anything in taxes, and the rich do.

I think it’s fair to draw the rich/poor line at half. Though I personally would say it’s probably nearer the bottom 10% that are really poor, and those of us in the middle class have just gotten too used to spending way too much.

But if you draw the line at half, you get just about the line at which people stop (or start) owing federal income tax. There are more taxes than federal income tax. Sales tax, investment tax, state taxes. Rich people own property, so they pay property tax. They buy more expensive things, so they pay more sales tax, and they probably pay luxury tax on some of what they buy. The rich have many and large investments, which means they pay investment taxes. They also can buy off politicians and get loopholes built into laws. That racket is one of the most significant blights on the current US government. Which shows more the differences between the parties, where McCain ran publicly supporting an extremely simplified tax code with a 1040 the size of a recipe card. Not a cure-all, but a step in the right direction.

But when the media talk about tax cuts, it’s all about how those nasty, rich-loving Republicans want to tax the little guy and let the rich keep beating the system, getting off scott-free. There is no scott-free for the rich. Corporations in the US are taxed at more than 30% of their net earnings. This is the highest corporate taxation rate in the industrialized world. This confiscatory and unbelievably high rate encourages companies to spend vast sums of money manipulating tax policy and government projects in their favor. The rich are taxed at similar rates and make similar efforts to avoid, by loophole and shelter, those insane rates.

Not that lowering or equalizing the tax rate will cure all these ills, but 10% or 15% is a much easier pill to swallow. For everybody.

It is important to have context, and to know that the media have some reason not to tell the whole truth in their stories. Objectivity is such an old ruse.

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