I got asked this question recently, how do I know that liberals reject the idea of personal responsibility, since I make that claim so often. And my answer is simple. Look at the social programs that liberals support, programs that simply cannot exist if personal responsibility does.
So what do I mean by personal responsibility? Wikiquote seems to sum it up pretty well. It states: “Personal responsibility or Individual responsibility is the idea that human beings choose, instigate, or otherwise cause their own actions. A corollary idea is that because we cause our actions, we can be held morally accountable or legally liable.” When I talk about personal responsibility, largely that’s what I mean.
Now tell me how you get from liberal social programs to personal responsibility. Go ahead, tell me. Because we all know you can’t.
I wouldn’t say if most liberal social programs had an element requiring users to improve their lives. You can qualify for welfare if, and only if, you do something to better your life and get off the public dole. But none of these programs actually do that. They don’t require that the people with their hands out actually do anything but sit on the couch, watching Oprah, waiting for a check. In fact, a lot of these programs actively penalize people who try to better themselves. That’s not taking personal responsibility for your life!
The fact is, you just can’t get from personal responsibility to liberal social programs without turning off your brain and just going on feelings. By definition, anyone who supports said programs cannot support personal responsibility because the two are diametrically opposed. You cannot say “I support people being held accountable for their own actions” and “here, have some free money from the government, no strings attached”. It just doesn’t work that way.
And that’s really why I think there are a significant number of people who claim to be liberal, but actually are not. Way back in my podcast days, I noted that a lot of self-identified liberals actually are conservative, they just refuse to adopt the label because they don’t want to be lumped in with the religious extremists. I can understand that, but that doesn’t actually change what you are, only the label that you choose to wear. Whatever characteristics you actually have, that’s what you actually are, no matter how that might make you feel. There are a lot of people I’d consider conservatives living on the liberal side.
I’d be happy to see self-identified liberals, people who actually support liberal social causes and programs, demonstrate how they are actually for personal responsibility as well. How do you get from there to here? I just don’t think you can do it. Maybe they ought to be reconsidering the label they wear if they actually are in favor of responsibility and thing these programs are off in the wrong direction. Wouldn’t that be nice?