I can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing this, but when I end up in a discussion about personal responsibility and I bring up the fact that I can and do live within my means, that I do make responsible decisions and that I do all of the things that my personal philosophy calls for, I invariably get people saying “yeah, but everyone isn’t like me!”
So the hell what?
I don’t make that argument to be “holier than though”, I make it to show that my philosophy actually does work in practice and can be successfully used. I am living proof. I’m nothing special, I’m just a responsible person living a responsible life, who has dramatically bettered my own life and that of my family by living responsibly. This isn’t magic, it’s just following a particular philosophical system that works as advertised. Yet you have people, particularly on the left, disparaging the philosophy, saying “not everyone can do that”.
Yes, they can, they just won’t. There is a difference.
When people refuse to act responsibly, that isn’t an example of the failure of responsible living, it’s an example of the failure of the individual. The fact remains, responsible living works just fine, there are plenty of examples of it out there, myself included. Saying “it doesn’t work because I choose not to even try it” is ludicrous, but this is the tack that a lot of liberal debaters take. And it doesn’t matter if it isn’t easy, if it doesn’t make you happy or if it gets in the way of your liberal philosophy either, it works, as demonstrated by the many people who live that way. That you don’t want to put in the hard work is irrelevant to reality. It’s a ludicrous argument to say “I don’t even feel like trying, therefore you are wrong”.
So why does this come up so often? Because people on the left don’t want to acknowledge human agency. Responsibility is a bad word to those on the left who think that everyone deserves to be given things on a silver platter and the idea of having to earn anything for themselves is anathema. Therefore, just because it can be done doesn’t mean that it ought to be done. It’s too hard and it might make people unhappy, therefore they simply ignore the fact that people who put in the effort are actually successful. Success doesn’t matter, feelings do.
The more I think about it, the more I realized that this applies to the religious right too. If I say that I don’t “need God”, I invariably get the response that not everyone is like me. They certainly could be if they chose to be, they simply prefer the emotionally comforting path over the rational one. Making an emotional choice doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it means you choose not to. That’s not much of an excuse in my book but it’s the only excuse they have. Wanting something to be true doesn’t make it any more likely to be true. Being emotionally uncomfortable with the state of reality doesn’t make reality change one bit. What is wrong with these people who think that it does?