Sense & Nonsense Featured Link

U.S. National Debt Clock

Up to the minute statistics you can use

The fundamental problem facing the United States of America today concerns the relationship between freedom and responsibility - between entitlement and obligation.

These are old questions, dating back at least to the seventeenth century when Thomas Hobbes and John Locke began to question whether human beings belonged to the church, to the state, to themselves or some combination of the three.

 Hobbes contended that people would not voluntarily accept their obligations and would therefore require the heavy hand of church and state to protect them from themselves.

Locke, on the other hand, saw the individual as "free and independent", with inalienable rights to "life, liberty and property". He included the "natural right to punish any who offend against them or their possessions."

Obviously, our founding fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and Constitution with the ideas of John Locke in mind. They enumerated our natural and inalienable rights very well.

However, they overlooked Locke's qualification that no one has the right to exercise their freedom until they have attained the use of 'reason'. Perhaps they took that condition for granted. At any rate, they left the responsibilities and obligations of citizenship and freedom vague.

Today, the basic political question before us is whether the exercise of personal freedom is contingent upon acceptance of personal responsibility. If we answer "no", then we reject Locke and accept Hobbes. (We have almost done so by default, without debate or conscious action) If the answer is "yes", then we must articulate those responsibilities and obligations.

This is a new issue in the United States of America. I believe most people have always taken it for granted that individual freedom is dependent on individual responsibility. For that reason, it has never become a political or legal issue. Today, it is the major (maybe only) political issue before the nation.

To understand the sputtering, frustrated outrage directed toward Washington, one must recognize that (almost overnight it seems) the very foundation of American democracy has been shaken. People know something is seriously wrong but have been unable to articulate just what that something is.

I submit that the "something" is the divorce of Responsibility from Freedom -- the separation of Obligation from Entitlement.

Sense and Nonsense Is dedicated to providing the information, ideas and interaction necessary to build a community of people who can be trusted and who trust each other.