Modern Responsibility

Dear Editor,

Please find a response to Mr. Howard’s commentary regarding modern law and waning American freedom below.  I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Howard that the Responsibility Age is a positive part of the “Yes, We Can” era, and I was thrilled to read his article.  I would like to add a focus on the fact that “Responsibility” requires individual responsibility, rather than just subscription to a collective choice.  Many members of my generation have mindlessly repeated that “Yes, We Can” without realizing that “we” is nothing more than a series of individuals fully responsible for what we do.  I remain a fan of your commentary page for great articles like this one, focusing on real values.  Thank you very much for your time.


Our free choice has been usurped by a carrot, not a stick. Philip K. Howard observes (”How Modern Law Makes Us Powerless,” Opinion, Jan. 26) that our modern, litigious age has created a pervasive sense of “powerlessness.” Americans, once ambitious leaders of the free world, are now rule-followers, impotent in the “shoving match” that has replaced “the power of personal conviction and the authority to use [our] common sense.”

But it is the promise of reward, not threat of punishment, which imperils President Obama’s “Responsibility” era. In today’s economy, those corporations that tread the right side of the line are rewarded with huge “stimulus” checks, rescuing them from bankruptcy obtained by their own fiscal irresponsibility. Even bipartisan opposition cannot stop a totally unified government, as we learned when the House passed still more bail-out checks over united Republican opposition.

The “Responsibility Age” should be an age of individual responsibility, where each citizen takes responsibility for his own actions. If individuals lose track of their personal responsibility in the crush of “Yes, We Can,” we begin to forget that “we” is nothing more than many voices saying “I.”

Mr. Howard correctly identifies that the forgotten component to freedom is that the legal boundaries preventing men from doing certain things (like stealing) also protect a frontier where “men should be inviolable.” If individuals permit a collective “we” to usurp the crucial responsible components – “I” – we will perpetuate the “legal maze” and continue to violate each person’s ability to take responsibility for his or her own actions. We should remember that we are not powerless, unless we continue to trade our responsibility for the carrot of collective choice. If we take responsibility for our actions now, yes we can protect what is best about America.

Kathryn Ciano



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