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8. Affirm Responsibility
Responsibility is the link between the Choices you make, and the Pain associated with those
Choices. In some cases, Responsibility is inevitable. When you touch a hot stove, you are
In other cases, people seek to avoid Responsibility as a method to Increase Happiness. Since
Happiness depends on the amount of Pain in your life, it makes sense that less Pain would
produce more Happiness. But when you try to reduce Pain by Reducing Responsibility, you
encounter the PAIN PARADOX.
The Pain Paradox is that even though you don’t want the Pain associated with Weak Choices,
you need that Pain to instruct and motivate you to make Strong Choices.
Consider the following examples of Pain you need.
- When you fail to complete schoolwork, you need the Pain of bad grades.
- When your business offers substandard service, you need the Pain of losing customers
until you either improve or go out of business.
- When you are rude to others, you need the Pain of social rebuke.
- When you cheat or take things that don’t belong to you, you need the Pain of feeling
shame and paying restitution.
Without the Pain associated with Weak Choices, you might never learn how to make Strong
Choices. That Pain is essential for your Happiness, yet some might try to reduce it. In doing so,
they risk not only your Happiness, but also the Happiness of everyone.
The Survival Syndrome provides that Survival Desires can both Increase and Decrease
Happiness. In this case, the Survival Desire is to Help. The irony is that Helping, a component of
Love, can result in Hurting, even to the point of death and war.
Eating is another Survival Desire, yet eating Junk Food can be harmful to your health. We are
tempted by Junk Food because it feels good, and the consequences are far off in the future. For
the same reasons, we succumb to the temptation of JUNK HELP.
Junk Help is any kind of Help that reduces Responsibility. Like Junk Food, it feels good, and the
consequences are dimmed by the Future Factor. Anyone can engage in Junk Help, but the most
powerful and damaging examples are caused by Government.
Education provides a classic example of Junk Help. Imagine a society where people are more
prosperous when they have a high school diploma. The public would naturally pressure
educators to increase the number of high school graduates.
The Responsible way for educators to help students graduate would be to teach students how to
meet the demands of a rigorous education. Students would be forced to apply themselves, or face
the consequences of failure. Students who fail could Choose to pursue alternatives such as
careers that provide on-the-job training.
The Junk Help alternative is to simply make it easier to graduate from high school. Standards are
relaxed. Classes are watered down. Extra credit is offered for non-academic activities. Educators
promote new theories of education which are simply Excuses for failing to educate.
To ensure the number of graduates increases, students are forced by law to attend, even when
they would be far more productive at a job, and their presence in school only detracts from the
learning of others. To make sure it looks like progress is being made, students are promoted to
higher grades even when they can’t read or write.
The Junk Help method is the easy way out. Teachers, students, and parents all face less stress.
And it accomplishes the objective -- graduation rates go up because more high school diplomas
are handed out.
The problem is: the diplomas are devalued. The true value of a diploma comes from the process
of learning how to make Strong Choices. Students who face the possibility of failure are forced
to innovate and improvise – they struggle to improve and ultimately educate themselves.
When that learning is diluted, the diploma becomes less than worthless. Less, because not only
have the students been deprived of education, but they have been given a false sense of
entitlement which leads to disappointment when the world recognizes their failings. The result is
a generation of lost productivity and diminished prosperity.
In the education example, Pain is avoided by relaxing standards. But some Pains are more
- Gamblers lose more than they make.
- Smokers suffer from health problems.
- Drug abusers harm themselves.
- Those who eat too much gain weight.
Since Junk Help can’t eliminate the Pain from those Choices, the alternative is to eliminate the
Choices. Parents can and should prohibit Choices for their children. But when Governments
eliminate Choices for adults, the results often backfire because of UNINTENDED
A classic example of Unintended Consequences occurred during alcohol prohibition in the
United States. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse causes many people to harm themselves and others.
Alcohol prohibition, however, caused even more harm.
When alcohol was made illegal, many people felt it was their right to exercise control of their
own bodies and choose what they ingest. So they continued to drink alcohol, except they did so
illegally. An illegal market for alcohol was born.
Illegal markets are a source of many Unintended Consequences. If someone steals from you
during an illegal transaction, you can’t go to the police, or you face prosecution. As a result,
conflicts in illegal markets are often solved through violence.
To compensate for the risk of being caught, illegal markets drive up the price of goods, and
therefore profits to criminals. Those profits are often used to bribe law enforcement, or finance
other criminal activities. Gangs of criminals are free to use force and intimidation against their
competitors, none of which can be reported to authorities.
Junk Help in the form of Prohibition launched an era of organized crime that lasted far longer
than the Prohibition. Those problems were caused not by the alcohol, but by the fact that the
alcohol became illegal. Junk Help failed to stop the problems of alcohol, and it created even
Junk Help harms the intended recipients, and it also harms those who pay for it. Consider that
Governments have no money of their own. Everything spent by a Government must be either
denied or taken from its citizens.
Typically, Government takes Wealth from those who are making the Strong Choices required to
create Wealth. The more Wealth those individuals create, the more is taken. That transfer of
Wealth to Government is an Involuntary transaction.
To the extent that Government requires funding for Junk Help, it removes Pain from people
making Weak Choices and transfers it to people making Strong Choices. When you remove Pain
from Weak Choices, you encourage Weak Choices. When you transfer the Pain to people
making Strong Choices, you discourage Strong Choices.
Any society that encourages Weak Choices over Strong Choices will experience declining
productivity, and decreased prosperity. As prosperity degrades, more people will want Junk
Help, and fewer people will be able to pay for it. Eventually there will not be enough people
making Strong Choices to pay for the mistakes of those making Weak Choices. The ultimate
result is often poverty, war, or social collapse.
Alternatives to Junk Help
What about Insurance?
Does insurance Reduce Responsibility? Does it allow you to avoid the Pain of your Choices?
Depends on who pays for it.
When you buy the insurance you need, you are making a Strong Choice to prepare for potential
needs. When someone gives you insurance you have not earned, that is either Charity or a
What about Charity?
Responsibility requires Choices. Unfortunately, some people are physically or mentally
incapacitated, and cannot make Choices. Helping those people is Charity.
Charity is an expression of compassion and Love from one human to another. Contrary to
"Scrooge" propaganda, people with wealth are typically generous, but they don't like to waste
their money. That's why even the most ardent supporters of Government almost always make
their voluntary contributions to private charities, rather than to government programs.
Unfortunately, Politicians take advantage of our charitable instincts by convincing us that
Government should be involved. Whenever Government participates in Charity, it is inevitably
perverted into a form of Junk Help known as Handouts.
Handouts are transfers of wealth to those who are not physically or mentally incapacitated. They
can take many forms: cash, rebates, vouchers, tax credits, tax deductions, tax rates, regulatory
exemptions, et cetera. They are routinely granted to the rich for their political contributions and
to the poor for their votes.
There was once a stigma associated with Handouts. People didn't want what they hadn't earned.
They understood that, except for the truly disabled, we must all pull our own weight or a society
In modern societies, Politicians have realized they can increase Handouts and hide the costs
through either debt or inflation. The Handouts allow them to buy votes which keep them in
power and perpetuate the process.
As more and more people take Handouts, the stigma fades. People fear they will ultimately pay
the bill, and they feel foolish if they don't get their share of the loot. Eventually it becomes a race
to take as much as possible.
What about Profit?
If Government doesn’t solve our problems, won’t people try to profit from them? That question
presents two false assumptions.
First, it is a mistake to think there is no profit in Government. Governments employ millions of
people who are all trying to profit. As much as anyone else, they want to buy things for
themselves, take vacations, save money, and provide for their children.
Second, it is a mistake to think that profit is somehow harmful. Profit is helpful, as long as there
is free competition and payment is Voluntary. In other words, as long as the person paying has
When you have Choices, the only way people get your money is when you Choose to give it to
them. If you don't give them your Money, they can fail. That potential Pain of failure gives them
helpful feedback, which is to say, it makes them Responsible.
Even non-profit charities benefit from competition. They know if their programs don't work, or
they waste too much money on administration, donations will decline. So who doesn't have
competition, which is to say, who is not Responsible?
Governments, and government-enforced monopolies, have no competition and no fear of "going
out of business." They don't need to meet the needs of anyone because their income consists of
Involuntary Transactions. No matter how harmful a Government program might be, you will still
be forced to pay for it.
What about voting?
Voting every two or four years for elected officials to make Choices for you is a weak substitute
for you making your own Choices every day.
Imagine if you could only decide once every four years:
- All the restaurants where you will eat.
- All the clothes you will wear.
- All the shows you will watch.
- All the charities you will support.
You need more Choices than that, and you need to be able to switch when things don't work out.
Now imagine if all those choices and many more were all wrapped up into two single
alternatives, and those alternatives could change after you choose. There is no chance that you,
or anyone else, would be as Happy as possible.
Governments don't typically decide things such as the clothes you wear, but they often spend
more money per person than you will spend on everything in the example combined. If
Government programs were Voluntary, you could vote every day, by supporting the programs
What about Perfection?
People who advocate for Government solutions like to imagine a perfect world. In that world,
Government eliminates the inefficiencies of competition and profit, and makes the best Choices
for you. But when competition and profit are limited, Incentive is also limited. With less
Incentive, fewer people make Strong Choices, more people make Weak Choices, and Happiness
And there is limited Incentive within Government. When Government programs fail, they are
rarely allowed to die. It's easier to raise taxes.
Because no one has real Responsibility for the cost of Government programs, the inefficiencies
of competition and profit are quickly replaced by even greater inefficiencies of waste and
corruption. Private enterprises have Incentives to reduce waste and corruption, but there are no
corresponding Incentives in Government. The only way to reduce Government waste and
corruption is to reduce Government.
Would a world without Junk Help be perfect? Of course not -- people always make mistakes. A
world without Junk Help is simply more perfect, with the Incentives for people to Increase
Responsibility is the foundation of the human ecosystem.
We have learned that tinkering with an ecosystem can produce disaster. For example, when we
extinguish every forest fire, trees that die accumulate on the forest floor. Without the cleansing
of natural forest fires, those unburned trees eventually ignite into a fire that is far more
catastrophic than the smaller fires that would naturally occur.
People don't always like Responsibility, just like they don't like forest fires, but they need to feel
the Pain associated with their own Weak Choices. Trying to "fix" Responsibility ultimately
results in a collapse of Responsibility, and society.
Why do we allow it?
Since Junk Help is so damaging, why would any society tolerate it? The answer is that Junk Help
is the culmination of many of our Survival Desires.
It starts with Helping. People genuinely want to Help others, but in the same way we gorge on
Junk Food, we also indulge in Junk Help. Politicians need us to Survive, and so they frighten us
into believing we need them to Survive. They promise great Pleasure for little Pain, which
appeals to our sense of Innovation. Optimism causes us to believe that maybe this time the
promises will be kept. The celebrity of some politicians might even cause Infatuation.
The costs of government programs are deferred and obscured by the Future Factor. When
payment is due, politicians employ Bigotry by promising to help those in your group and punish
or tax others. Thanks to Normalization, most voters can't even imagine a different system. At
election time, the media focuses on who is ahead in the polls, appealing to your Herding
And we have the Santa Syndrome.
Many species live in groups to improve chances for Survival, and those groups have leaders.
- The dominant male in a pride of lions.
- An alpha-dog among wolves.
- The patriarchal male in a group of apes.
Humans are also programmed to follow leaders. Leaders can be appointed by force, or chosen by
voting. Regardless of how they are selected, they tend to exhibit similar characteristics.
Human leaders are typically powerful figures, traditionally older males, often with flowing white
hair and a beard -- symbols of wisdom and virility. Consider the similarities of these icons and
- George Washington
- Kings and emperors
- Uncle Sam
Human leaders also tend to exhibit common behaviors.
- They promise a better future, typically in exchange for allegiance.
- They have the ability to provide great rewards and great punishment.
- They reinforce their roles with imagery, such as faces on posters and money.
Consider how all of these characteristics apply to Santa Claus.
- An older male with flowing white hair and beard.
- Promises a better future (on Christmas day) if you do what he says (be good).
- Can deliver presents, or a lump of coal.
- Easily recognizable.
Of the thousands of myths which have come and gone, why would Santa be among the most
enduring? Why do we celebrate a mythical character who gives away gifts to the obedient? The
Santa myth survives because it reflects our Instinctive Survival Desire to look for Santa-like
We tell our children the lie that Santa will bring gifts, the same way we tell ourselves the lie that
Politicians will solve our problems. And remember that Santa has no Responsibility. He doesn’t
really give away presents. You do. Santa just takes all the credit.
Political Santas are the same. They take all the credit for being great leaders, but you pay for
everything. You fight the wars. You pay the taxes. You suffer from the broken promises.
Who are They?
Junk Help is a natural outgrowth of Instinctive Survival Desires. But it produces the worst-case
of the Survival Syndrome, with an end result of reduced prosperity, often leading to misery,
poverty, and even war. Interestingly, the people involved can be unaware of how Survival
Desires are involved.
The process of choosing leaders is similar to how trees are "chosen" to grow in the woods. Trees
don’t need to know anything about biology, or soil composition, or groundwater. Trees simply
spread their seeds in hopes of finding fertile ground.
Political leaders also don’t need to know anything about Survival Desires. But inevitably, some
will appeal to Survival Desires and find fertile ground in our minds. It is our Choice to prepare
our minds for trees or weeds.
Who are We?
Some people support Junk Help because they want it. They have been Normalized into believing
that Governments should provide jobs, retirement, education, health care, and anything else
needed. They have sought the ultimate Santa and have found it in Government. They have a
religious-like belief, which is not easily swayed.
Others support Junk Help inadvertently, because they are deceived. They vote for Politicians
who advocate Freedom, Civil Rights, and Responsibility. Only later do they learn the Politicians
mean: Freedom from Responsibility, Civil Rights to take from others, and your Responsibility
for the Choices of others.
Some, perhaps the majority, are either too busy or too lazy to learn the truth. It can be difficult.
To get elected, Politicians often blur the facts. But unless we are vigilant, the Survival Syndrome
ensures that Junk Help will prevail.
Ultimately, the problem is not the Values of Politicians. The problem is the Values of voters.
- It is not that Politicians lie to us; it is that we want to believe the lies.
- It is not that they frighten us; it is that we are too easily frightened.
- It is not that they treat us like children; it is that we act like children.
You should not simply accept Responsibility. You should seize it. Demand Responsibility for
your Choices. Demand that others are Responsible for their Choices. It is the surest way to
Increase Happiness for us all. And you should START NOW
- Responsibility is the link between the Choices you make and the Pain associated with those Choices.
- The Pain Paradox is that even though you don't want Pain, you need it.
- Junk Help is any kind of help that reduces Responsibility.
- Pain Reduction reduces Incentive.
- Choice Reduction creates Unintended Consequences.
- Pain Transfer produces the wrong Incentives and threatens everyone's Happiness.
- The Santa Syndrome provides that you are programmed to follow certain types of leaders.
- Take Responsibility for your life. Don’t expect anyone else to take the Pain associated with your Choices.
Wouldn’t it be more humane to teach people how to be Responsible, rather than have them
Of course teaching is preferable, but some people insist on learning the hard
way. The humane choice is to keep Pain as a backup to be sure they have the ultimate Incentive
Are all Politicians dishonest?
Honest Politicians would need to tell voters that Government can
not solve all their problems and should not try. Those who do tend to lose elections. We will
have more honest Politicians in office when more of us understand the fallacy of Junk Help.
Some people didn't have the benefit of good parents. Why not use the Government to
replace what they missed?
There are many reasons why people can benefit from legitimate
help. The critical ingredient is to make sure the Help comes from Voluntary sources without
Government involvement. Government solutions are, by nature, Involuntary and inevitably lead
to Junk Help which causes more harm than good.