Monday, February 23, 2009

Personal Responsibility

Here's my most recent article, published in the SDSU Collegian:

Personal responsibility. I’m not sure anybody knows what that means anymore. Placing blame on others when bad things happen seems to be the norm. We see it every day on TV: when something happens, everyone freaks out, looking for someone to blame, regardless if someone is at fault or not. Lawsuits are a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, and it gets worse every day. Each time a suit is settled, precedent is set that creates fodder for lawyers to make even more ridiculous arguments in the future, which prompts organizations, individuals, companies, etc. to conjure up liability forms. These liability forms essentially boil down to “hey, if you hurt yourself it’s your fault, not ours.”

The promise of a monetary settlement is very tempting for some people, when in reality no one can really be blamed but the person filing the suit. We’ve all heard the story of the woman who dropped hot coffee on her lap at McDonald’s. Whose fault is that? It’s common sense that coffee is hot, so be careful! It’s not McDonald’s fault, but because of the suit, now companies everywhere put disclaimers on everything, letting us know that the hot coffee is HOT.
Here are some other examples:

-A lady in Detroit sued her employer because her coworker’s perfume was too overpowering. A federal judge allowed this suit to go forward. Where’s the personal responsibility? Take the initiative and talk with the person whose perfume is bothering you. How is that the employer’s fault?
-When you throw your Wii remote into your new plasma TV, ask yourself: is this Nintendo’s fault, or should I just be more careful next time? Nintendo was sued by a few people who felt it was Nintendo’s fault and did not take personal responsibility for their actions.
-A kid sued his teacher for waking him up in class, citing “hearing problems” due to the noise that woke him up.

As crazy as some of these lawsuits are, the mere fact that some of them were allowed in court gives organizations pause, as the possibility of going to court for something stupid is still a court appearance and will cost money, so organizations have to take steps to protect themselves from these things. Some activities may not even take place, because they are deemed too much of a liability risk, eliminating the possibility of participating in fun things that we were once able to.

The worst cases are those that emerge from a situation where no one is at fault. For example, look at the U.S. Airways flight that went down in the Hudson River. The pilot performed magnificently: he successfully landed the plane in the water and everyone survived. All this was the fault of some geese that flew into both engines, something that was out of everyone’s control. Already there are some lawsuits against U.S. Airways, citing emotional damages and nervousness during flying after the accident. The plane going down was no fault of U.S. Airways. In fact, if they hadn’t trained their pilots so well and communicated with the harbor rescue perfectly, most likely everyone on that flight would have died in a crash or of hypothermia in the river.

Suing should be reserved for when someone has truly wronged you, not serve as compensation for something that is either someone’s own personal fault or the result of something out of everyone’s control. Accidents happen, that’s just a reality of life, and closure should not come about through use of a lawsuit against someone who is not truly at fault.
You want to talk about change? Let’s reform our legal system so that it punishes legitimate wrongdoers, rather than creating a society of victimization and blame for monetary gain.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


My SDSU Collegian article on freedom:

Freedom. Such a simple word, yet one that has had such a resounding impact on the world. Wars have been fought over that word, and many men and women have died in the name of freedom. A simple word, yet near impossible to define.

How would you define freedom? Does it mean doing whatever you please without anyone stopping you? Does it mean being free to choose your own destiny for yourself? Being able to decide the fate of your pregnancy? Or maybe protecting an unborn child’s chance for a free life of its own? Perhaps having the freedom to make something of yourself by starting a small business free from mounds of paperwork and government interference?

Whatever your definition of freedom, a small government—as opposed to our newly elected administration and Congress—is a government that will maximize your freedoms. Sure the power shift in our country offers extended abortion freedoms, gay marriage freedoms, possibly some legalized drug freedoms…but say those of you who champion those issues get your way, then what? Aside from freedom in social issues, there is very little promise of additional freedoms…only more regulations, stipulations, lack of choice in medical care, reduced gun rights/self protection rights, more loopholes for lawyers to take advantage of and create more of the asinine lawsuits we hear about all the time, more tax burden reducing personal economic freedom, etc.

Our new administration promises to better all our lives and improve the human condition for all of us. Sounds great, but there are few actions of government that can pull us out of all our individual problems…only you can do that, and you should be free to do so! Government exists to protect us from each other and to help those who cannot help themselves. An increase in the ability of government to do things for you (through increased taxes, regulations) equals a decrease in your ability to do things for yourself and choose your own path (less freedom for you).

With a small and open government, it’s easier to trust government to do the right thing with the power they have, while at the same time maximizing our freedoms in most other aspects of our lives. Big government fears the people, because the more you tell people what to do, the more disgruntled individuals there will be. Small government is more responsible to you and me, because maximizing our individual freedoms with a small government leaves us free to keep watch over the government and call them out when they do not carry out properly or ethically the few responsibilities that we have entrusted to them.

There’s a famous quote: “the government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take everything you have.” Keep that in mind, otherwise you may find yourself sacrificing your personal freedoms to a government that may or may not provide you with an acceptable equivalent.