Some Americans say it is the responsibility of the super-rich to be socially conscious by frequently demonstrating their benevolence. Why is this so—who made that rule? Simply by virtue of their ability to create wealth or possibly because of their birth; they are mandated to redistribute wealth—why?
What about self-reliance? When did that go out of vogue?
How about the American privilege to succeed or fail? Must everyone have a safety net placed two inches below their feet? Don’t you think such a safety net will dismantle one’s desire to succeed—one’s passion to succeed—one’s will to succeed? Where does responsibility fit in? Why must fish be given to the lazy? Isn’t it better to teach them how to fish?
I personally believe in paying community rent. I’ve done this my entire adult life; volunteering for youth fraternal groups, social service clubs, youth sports and today, running a 501 (c) (3) charity that I started a few years ago. However, I did this of my own free will and accord. Nobody held a gun to my head and made me do it.
For over a decade, I served concurrently as an American Youth Soccer Organization referee and a United States Soccer Federation referee—the former position for pay, and the latter as a volunteer. Frequently I would be asked why I would referee for free when I could be down the street being paid. I did both. I paid my community rent. And, it was my choice.
It’s All About Choice
Choice is the issue—my choice to volunteer to make a difference, or my choice not to volunteer. When the day comes that I’m forced to volunteer, my passion to make a difference will disappear. I recall descriptions shared with me by my Austrian friends, of Soviet era East Germany , with bails of hay sitting in fields uncollected and rotting because they were never picked up by the State. With passion gone, nobody cared to deal with the problem, because it was the State’s problem.
Apparently, America is on the path of risk taking aversion. Be clear on the idea that I’m not damning the persons that truly need a helping hand. However, I am damning the persons that are, daily, suckling at the nipple of the sow by the name of The United States Government or that of state and local governments. At some point citizenry must contribute to their society—one cannot forever take. If one chooses to take, and not contribute, they have not lived up to their responsibility and in my opinion, have not earned the privileges enjoyed by contributors to said society. Why on earth do freeloaders deserve a free ride?
Safety Comes With a Price
America is a relatively safe country. And for those that desire to earn their way, can select from countless communities in which to live. During my tenure as a soccer referee, I found it a privilege to safely spend a Saturday with local youth, enjoying the beautiful community in which I live, and not having to worry, as countless do in third-world countries, about improvised explosive devises (IED) exploding around me.
As with safety; infrastructure, higher education, geo-political clout, and freedom comes with a price. While my hat is sincerely off to all great Americans that have served their country in military service, there are also additional ways to serve one’s country—lead by example; demonstrate personal responsibility. Live an exemplary life by contributing well-adjusted offspring to society, by making a difference in one’s community, and by exhibiting financial responsibility.
With Privilege Comes Responsibility
This is where the rubber meets the road. Sure, we all want stuff—that’s the American ideal of consumption. And consumption feeds capitalism, our country’s economic system—and that is okay. Capitalism allows the citizenry to achieve or fail. While societal safety nets can serve, safety nets cannot be a society’s ideal, goal, or standard method of operation. People must be allowed to experience the anguish of failure in order to truly savor the sweetness of success. In America, we are afforded the privilege of freedom—freedom to succeed or fail.
Do we have the right to take away one’s passion? We do it by continually intruding on the lives of our citizenry with either social, financial, or emotional safety nets. My greatest fear for America is that we are teaching our citizens to depend on the federal, state, and local governments for their daily sustenance and shelter. If this trend continues, will there be any Americans still working? At what point will we disassemble our great democracy and fall into the carcass similar to our neighbor to the south? Shouldn’t it be your and my responsibility to stand up for the concept and ideal of privilege through responsibility as opposed to privilege on the backs of others?
As I have continually stated, I live in a glass house and have not always lived up to the ideals that I espouse. However, I do not slit my wrists with a desire to bleed out in my bathtub, but rather pick myself up when failure rears its head in my life and try to do things differently, and with the sincere desire to do better. You can do this too—leading by example can be your wonderful contribution to society.
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.