The Individual And Society

By Larry Ray Hafley

The article by Thomas Sowell which follows below is, to use the vernacular of the day, “Right on.” Mr. Sowell “is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace in Stanford, California.”

Personal accountability, hence, personal responsibility, is lacking, but is much needed in the world today as Mr. Sowell clearly affirms. Some Christians, perhaps, would like to be obscured in the church and become blurred in an institution in order to dismiss, or at least diminish, their own individual duty. It cannot be done, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5: 10). Now, Mr. Sowell’s article:

More epidemics are appearing now than in the ages of the great plagues. A recent cover story in Newsweek magazine referred to an “epidemic” of drug use among young people. Before that, the media was sounding the alarm about “epidemics” of teenage pregnancy, of alcoholism, and of suicides, among other things.

When I was growing up, we were taught to stay away from crowded places during an epidemic, because someone might sneeze on you and you would come down with influenza or something. It is hard to see how you are going to come down with drug addiction – much less pregnancy – that way.

Reckless use of the word “epidemic” is more than just media hype debasing the language. Like most clever uses of words, it camouflages a hidden agenda. Personal responsibility is anathema to deep thinkers, for that would undermine their role as rescuers of the “victims” of society.

If everything is an “epidemic, then we have done an end run around personal responsibility and can now break into the clear with more government programs – which means more money, power and visibility for the rescuers. It is an old script, but the anointed keep using it, changing a few words here and there to keep on bamboozling the public.

Personal responsibility can be gotten rid of in many ways. Comedian Flip Wilson says, “The devil made me do it.” Deep thinkers say “society” made people do it. That means the taxpayers have to pick up the tab. Flip Wilson is much funnier and not nearly as costly.

There are people with some unusual names. Just among economists, there are Orley Ashenfetter, Axel Leijonhufvud (“pronounced just the way it’s spelled,” he says) and Pedro Schwartz. But I have never met anybody named “society.” Yet, if you believe the deep thinkers, this is who is making everybody do everything.

Everyone is learning how to cop out of personal responsibility by blaming “society.” From teenagers in high school to hardened felons in prison, they can tell you how the “traumas” they were put through by “society” caused everything from failing grades to armed robbery. People who would rather mooch than work used to be called bums, but now they are homeless “victims” of “society.” You are supposed to feel guilty because more money is not being taken out of your paycheck to support them in the manner to which they would like to become accustomed.

The decline of personal responsibility has been accompanied by a rise in social responsibility by people who had nothing to do with the individual decisions that brought on disaster. Along with this has come an increased role for people skilled at creating guilt.

One of the best performances of this nature was a television appearance years ago by author James Baldwin. He glared out from the screen in a coldly bitter stare, saying: ” I’ve just come from seeing a dead boy – and you killed him.”

“Not me, Jim,” I replied to the screen, “I’ve been here in the apartment all day.” It turned out that this “dead boy” was 28 years old and had died from an overdose of drugs. Baldwin never really explained how the television viewers had done him in – nor did he have to. “Society” is presumed guilty until proven innocent.

We laugh at people who believe in the tooth fairy, but we take it seriously when deep thinkers talk about “society”. as having done this or that – or having failed to do this or that. If they mean the government, then they ought to say government. But then we might see through the heightened words to the hidden agenda.

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 7, p. 200
April 7, 1988