Thursday, September 20, 2018

In Praise of Irresponsibility, Part I

There is no shortage of official voices exhorting us to act responsibly. Strenuous attempts are being made to make us feel responsible for the government officials we supposedly elect (by responding to a multiple-choice question which we don’t get to ask). Financial irresponsibility—in taking on too much personal debt—is vilified (while government debt shoots for the stars with no thought to repayment). Responsible parenting is held up as a great virtue forcing us to adhere to inflated safety standards that bring up generation after generation of mollycoddled nincompoops. The authorities threaten us into reporting various minor infractions by our neighbors—spying on behalf of the government, that is—ignoring the fact that legislative bloat has made it so that each person commits an average of three felonies a day. Even insurance companies get in on this moralizing game, conditioning us to think that acting responsibly will lower the insurance premiums on our mandatory insurance—but please don’t tell anyone that if your risk is low enough you are better off insuring yourself using your own savings instead of squandering them on insurance company profits. In short, to be responsible is to not think too much, because upon examination “responsibility” reduces to “do as we say and don’t ask questions.”

What is remarkable about all of these appeals to responsibility is that by and large they are being made by people who themselves range from the blithely short-sighted to outright paragons of irresponsibility, all of them far more interested in bolstering their own power and authority than in pursuing any notion of the common good. What if a case can be made that these attempts at public moralizing are strictly manipulative attempts to steer us into a cul de sac where we can be easily slaughtered or fleeced? And if so, what would constitute a properly responsible response to such hypocritical, cynical, egotistical manipulation?