Personal responsibility is economically vital

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Fundamentals of an economy are often viewed in terms of the magnitude and growth of its per capita gross domestic product, the flow of new housing, national debt relative to GDP, and other real factors.

But of equal importance are citizen incentives to work, to save, to invest and take risks – the moral fiber of its people as expressed in personal responsibility for one’s well being, including family. Because we suffer from self-inflicted disintegration of values, these aspects of our national culture are not sound.

Indeed, over the past century our culture has changed for the worse. Under the cover of relativism (my values and morals are just as good as yours), our society has adopted a new culture, in which venerable standards, restrictions and constraints are relaxed, and proudly abandoned. We forget that the old culture held us in good stead for centuries, bringing forth – contrary to President Obama’s constant deprecations – one of the world’s greatest civilizations.

AMONG OUR greatest losses has been the marked decline in the public’s sense of personal responsibility. This value has long served as an edifice of our free economy, if not its most important building block. It is the underpinning of personal incentive, the stalwart foundation of family well-being. It bolstered personal pride and that pride, in turn, reinforced our sense of responsibility.

We have failed to instill in our school programs – from K-12 grades through colleges and even Ph.D. programs – the importance of the work ethic, personal and family responsibility, and the benefits of personal freedom and citizen well being in a competitive, free-market economy. These values must be taught by careful, logical reasoning; their absorption cannot be assumed. It must be taught with enthusiasm and conviction, not like a Roman prisoner approaching execution on the Bridge of Sighs.

In sum, we have allowed our educational process to deteriorate before our eyes. Because of our representative form of government, we all share responsibility for its collapse.

THE DECLINE in personal responsibility helps (it is not the sole cause) spawn a myriad of welfare programs. Politicians have made perpetual personal and corporate welfare viable long-term options. The U.S. Department of Agriculture heavily advertises the availability of food stamps while the Department of Health and Human Services carefully assists us in qualifying for Medicaid. Other agencies provide citizens cell phones with virtually no questions asked.

Diminishing personal responsibility relaxes health and dietary standards, inducing people to look to health assistance programs when they become ill or in need. If so then we should find evidence supporting this view in research studies. For example, the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, (The NHSDA Report, April 19, 2002 – the latest available) finds that illicit drug use was higher in publicly assisted families than in unassisted families among persons ages 12 to 64. Moreover, when questioned about alcohol consumption, responders ages 18 to 25 on assistance reported a decline in abusive drinking relative to those not receiving assistance, while those in assisted groups ages 35 to 49 indicated higher consumption compared to the non-assistance group.

THUS OVERALL, drug abuse is more of a problem among those on welfare than for those not on public assistance, but for those on assistance, alcohol abuse is more related to age – elderly are more prone than younger consumers. While we can let sociologists and psychologists sort these factors out, the evidence is clear of a breakdown in personal responsibility.

This evidence is compatible with the belief, that with some people the availability of public assistance encourages them to relax their sense of personal responsibility by consuming more illicit drugs and alcohol, knowing that they have the fall back of public assistance to bail them out. Just as big financial institutions carry the label “too big to fail,” which encourages them to acquire dangerous financial risks, consumers have an analogous perverse incentive: to shirk personal responsibility in the face of public assistance opportunities.

TO MAKE MATTERS worse, we have allowed a coalition of politicians, teachers’ unions, and administrators take control of the public academic process and tolerate diminishing moral standards, less effective values, a dumbed-down curriculum and a weaker culture, which some households have tried to counteract while others have simply acquiesced in or reinforced. Unfortunately, our colleges and universities do not fare much better.

All this paints a dark picture of our society’s well-being and its prospects for a brighter future. But there is hope of a groundswell of positive thinking from the general population. It might spring from interest groups, like veterans, leading the way. Veterans are more likely to re-ignite ashes of traditional maxims, especially the long-discredited value of patriotism.

Meanwhile, one must show resilience and adjust to these altered rules, roll with the punches and, as always, do the best one can. But above all, maintain the flame of optimism. Keep the faith.

(The writer is a professor emeritus of financial economics at the University of Georgia. He lives in Aiken, S.C.)

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deestafford
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deestafford 06/09/13 - 07:44 am
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I really enjoy Dr Beranek's columns because he hits the nail

on the head. I cannot disagree with a single word he has written in this piece.

For some reason we think that people should not be held responsible and suffer the consequences of their decisions and actions. If poverty was made to hurt people would get out and get out and work. However, the government contributes to people not working with policies such as the minimum wage. Whereas, an employer may be willing to pay someone $5 an hour because that is all the worth of the work the individual is capable of producing the government mandates a wage much higher than the worth of the work of the individual.

Another thing, we have this idea that a person should have to work only eight hours a day. If a person is only worth $5 an hour they could get two $5 an hour jobs and double their income. When they learn more skills they can increase their worth. This is especially true for young people entering the labor force.

It boils down to the liberals thinking they know more than centuries of human nature has taught us and that we are stupid and they must protect and take care of us. It really began slowly with Teddy Roosevelt and then was really put in to motion by Wilson. Took off with FDR and went into over drive with Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, and obama.

deestafford
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deestafford 06/09/13 - 07:47 am
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1

It would be great if Dr Beranek could be on a lecture

circuit that was mandatory for high school and college students to attend rather than the garbage to which they are now subjected.

RMSHEFF
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RMSHEFF 06/09/13 - 07:54 am
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1

Great letter. These facts

Great letter. These facts are all quantified in a book by Charles Murray called "Coming Apart".

RunningMan
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RunningMan 06/09/13 - 08:03 am
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Another incorrect letter

Another incorrect letter written by someone who was provided opportunities to be all that they could be speaking badly about those denied those same opportunities. For those like myself, I know better, and had to work twice as hard to get ahead in life than others simply because of my skin color. Please, spare me your self righteous judgement of struggles you have no idea about. Take the blinders off everyday for about 5 minutes and you might see things the way they really are.

ultrarnr
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ultrarnr 06/09/13 - 11:08 am
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More propaganda

Unpublished

So it seems the author wants to take us back to the 1950's. The free market brought us the financial crisis, the most expensive healthcare system in the developed world and income inequality. Personal responsibility is simply code for tearing down the support system aimed at people of color.

ymnbde
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ymnbde 06/09/13 - 12:13 pm
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competition for victimhood status

is a pitiful activity
just remember, political orientation trumps skin color
gender trumps political orientation
a disability trumps gender
and sexual orientation trumps a disability
but the person without any of those is the biggest victim of all
and that's just the way things really are
work frees a person from all those self-limiting thoughts

RMSHEFF
10999
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RMSHEFF 06/09/13 - 03:31 pm
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RUNNINGMAN

How ever did Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, Dr Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Alan Keys, Colon Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Lynn Swann, Jc Watts, Don King, Karl Malone, Armstrong Williams, Bishop T.D. Jakes every make it !

Gary Ross
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Gary Ross 06/09/13 - 04:00 pm
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1

Victims or sluffers?

I am committed to the old fashioned value that everyone should stand on his/her own character. That's the only way equality will work. You know, the same values that MLK preached. Unfortunately, his teachings have been forgotten by his own people through the lure of free welfare programs and hate teachings that no matter what society does, blacks will always have the short end of the stick. That is 100% pure Grade "A" bovine excrement. I know plenty of blacks that have applied good charactor and education to their lives and received success in return. It takes the same kind of eforts I put in. And, I call them friends!

RunningMan, your racist comment is very disturbing indeed because it reflects the very INFECTION that is killing this society. Please tell us exactly how you had to work twice as hard to get ahead in life simply because of your skin color. Are you really implying that the rest of society didn't have to put forth great efforts while maintaining decent moral standards to get ahead? At what grade did you quit school?

Please refrain from blaming society for your failures. Blame your parents.

The one line in this letter that really got to me was " Because of our representative form of government, we all share responsibility for its collapse." I don't like the idea of being pulled down by people like RunningMan. This is what you call socialism, and I don't like it at all.

Darby
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Darby 06/10/13 - 10:50 am
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"I know better, and had to work twice

as hard to get ahead in life than others simply because of my skin color."

.
Can you say, cop-out? There will be a brief pause while I get out the world's smallest violin and play a sad little song for all those who have been left behind through no fault of their own.

Those of you who have self-respect and a sense of personal responsibility, put your ear plugs in or just take a break.

Darby
19147
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Darby 06/10/13 - 11:01 am
3
1

Interesting how someone who doesn't know

me, knows he had to work twice as hard as I to achieve whatever small success I may have attained.

Really interesting... or pathetic. Right, pathetic is definitely a better description.

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