Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Crisis of Responsibility

From frivolous lawsuits to an increase in laws designed to protect us from ourselves, few desire to take any responsibility for anything anymore.

The most recent example of this phenomenon is the cries for a bail out of those with mortgages in default. As someone with a young family, I would like to see house prices continue to fall so that I might be able to afford one. I have long considered these prices to be unreasonably inflated. Anyone who decries the inaction of government in this regard and considers those involved as victims should consider the real causes of this "crisis."

A higher degree in economics is not required to understand this. Many people simply bought houses they could not afford. Often, they purchased the houses not to live in, but as investments. According to statistics from, possibly as many as one-third of all homes purchased since 2000 were bought by speculators hoping for a quick profit. Many speculators were buying homes from other speculators, and even worse, construction companies built homes based on that false demand. There was never a market of people who actually wanted to live in these houses. To make these bad developments worse, lenders were granting loans to people who should never have qualified for them. The end result of all this is similar to the end of any common pyramid scheme: a few make big profits by selling out early and everyone else is left with nothing, or in debt.

The fact that people engage in this kind of reckless behavior should surprise no serious student of human nature. But, sadly, this appears to me to be just one more aspect of a larger trend that may be unavoidable.

As free, liberal societies have matured and enlarged, a crisis of responsibility has emerged within their people. Somehow the cornerstone of freedom, individual responsibility, is discarded as a weight too burdensome, replaced by a culture of blame and victimhood. He who most successfully ascribes his failings to another is the victor in this paradigm. How one arrests such a depressing trend in fellow citizens is a mystery.

The renowned psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Dr. Victor Frankl, suggested erecting a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast of the United States as a counterbalance to the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast. He taught that these concepts were dependant on each other and a public acknowledgement of this truth was appropriate.

A link to the wikipedia article about it here:

A link to the Statue of Responsibility website here:

Sadly, the effort to build the statue appears to be as stalled as the desire of free people to assume responsibility for their lives.

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