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Personal Responsibilty: A Value of Bygone Days?

Personal responsibility is becoming more and more a value of bygone days as American society continues to progress and push forward into the twenty-first century. It seems as if the American dream is evolving from the idea that if one works hard enough, regardless of current social or economic status, he or she can achieve prosperity and wealth, to a mindset that touts mantras that support the removal of personal accountability such as: “If the market doesn’t favor the current direction in which a company is going, things will be fine.” Why will they be fine? Obviously because the government will bail the business out of bankruptcy in an effort to reestablish prosperity and the American dream for the company receiving the bailout at the cost of millions of other taxpayer’s American dream.

In the essay “What You Eat is Your Business” by Radley Balko, he extends this idea into the realm of food. The main idea of the essay is that the government is moving in a stronger socialist direction than it has ever moved in the past. He breaks this down using food and the rising level of obesity in America in order to get his point across. The main thrust of Balko’s argument centers on the increasing amount of governmental control that is being exerted onto the food industry.  $200 million anti-obesity budgets and proposed fat taxes on high calorie food highlight some of the measures that have been discussed in order to contain the problem of rising American obesity.

Balko believes that these measures are not the most productive way to quell obesity in America. He believes that the money that the government invests into this issue would be better spent on education programs and initiatives that foster a sense of personal responsibility. “This is the wrong way to approach obesity. Instead of manipulating or intervening in the array of food options available to American consumers, our government ought to be working to foster a sense of responsibility in and ownership of our own health and well-being. But we are doing just the opposite” (158).

He goes on to expose the growing movement away from personal responsibility when he speaks about people being disqualified from juries for showing the “personal responsibility bias”. Balko believes the best way to alleviate the growing obesity “public health crisis” is to remove obesity from the realm of public health and simply into the realm of personal responsibility.

I tend to agree with what Balko states within this article. It is assured that obesity is an important issue facing America today as our unhealthy lifestyles are leading to increasing incidences of heart disease, early death from cardiac problems, and a general state of unhealthiness for a very significant portion of our population. The question is, however, whose problem is it to fight?

Certainly this should not be governed through directives coming down from the nation’s lawmakers. It has never been the government’s responsibility to legislate morality, but we are seeing an increasing incident of this as well. This falls squarely outside of the intentions that our founding fathers had for this nation.

As America continues to push forward, the idea of personal responsibility is being pushed further and further into left field. No one wants to take responsibilities for their actions. If a child brings a gun to school and kills other students, is he held responsible? On the surface we say yes, but then in the same breath the news media will call the child a tragic product of society. Which is it? He or she can’t be personally responsible if he is a product of a corrupted society which led the child to kill.

The time has come for America to awaken to what we are becoming. As the government begins to regulate more and more of our daily activities and moral standings, the more we begin to look like a socialist nation. The best way that we can fight obesity or change the direction that we are moving is by reestablishing the idea that we as people are completely responsible for the actions we take. Whether or not I choose to put a doughnut in my mouth or a carrot stick, is no business of the government. My health among other things are issues that are mine to change. This country will never attain the level of prosperity that we have enjoyed in the past until we decide to take responsibilities for our failures instead of just our successes. It is my hope that this day comes sooner rather than later. 


Works Cited

Graff, G., Birkenstein, C., & Durst, R. (2009). The Moves That Matter In Academic Writing: They say I say (, pp. 463-481). New York: W.W. Norton & Company .

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