Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Some Thoughts On A Citizen's Moral Responsibilities

In response to the Homespun Bloggers weekly symposium:

What, in your opinion, are the moral responsibilities of the individual citizen in the United States (or your own country) today and how do you believe people should act upon (or react to) those perceived responsibilities?

Morals and their resulting responsibilities represent a very broad topic. Many of the responders have referenced religious writings, god and the Boy Scout oath which all generally fit the "do unto others..." golden rule. There is another set of morals which one derives from existing as a citizen in a society. These have less to do with how we treat other individuals and focus more on how one's actions impact society at large. While I have not fully developed a solid, succinct golden rule for moral citizenry, the basic idea is to not become a burden to society. In high school my government teacher told us we all had a right to fail and to do nothing. I found this hard to swallow since by failing and not trying to not fail, simply by existing you were taking FROM society and not giving anything back. I see examples of this daily in my medical practice. Things like smoking, over-eating, alcoholism and dangerous personal activities are all contrary to good health - and this is no secret. In my opinion, there should be a moral rule against these activities since they all cost society in one way or another. The question then becomes how do you apply the moral citizen test to any action in question. The answer becomes framed something like "is this action going to take from society without producing an, at least, equal good?" Apply this to the skydiver without health insurance. While few accidents occur, when they do they generally result in multiple surgeries, long hospital stays and protracted rehabilitation. Without any resources to back the skydiver up in case of accident, isn't there a moral imperative to not skydive? So while we should treat all other individuals the way we want to be treated, maybe we should treat our country/society the way we would want our family treated.

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