I’m a big fan of personal responsibility. I don’t think we can clean up the world, unless we are cleaning our own house. However, I caught myself thinking something today that made me wonder about my own attitudes. I was cleaning the cat box. I use the clumping cat litter, and I was wondering if it is bad for the environment. My next thought was “They wouldn’t be allowed to make it if it wasn’t”. Outside of how ridiculous that thought is (can anyone say “superfund”?), it was an obvious dodge of personal responsibility. In this case, I want to dodge it, as I love this stuff. It makes keeping three cats easy, neat and not stinky. How often do we avoid considering personal responsibility because we don’t want to change?
The Tie In
I live in New York state. Often called the “Nanny state”, since we seem to have more “it’s bad for you” laws than any other state, other than California. Most of us poo-poo those laws, citing personal responsibility. The cat box this morning made me reconsider that. How many of won’t change until forced to, because we like the thing that might not be good for us? They don’t have to ban clumping cat litter for me to stop using it, but the negative qualities would have to be dramatically and forcefully shown to me in order for me to change.
I can’t say I quit smoking because of the indoor smoking ban, but it certainly helped. Going through the mini- withdrawals I had to endure each time I spent time in a public building was an added incentive to quitting. Make it easy to do the right thing, hard to do the wrong is the basis of behavior change. Is it wrong to have our governments to participate in these efforts? What if a company doesn’t exercise personal responsibility and makes a product that hurts people? Is our only recourse tort law? Of course, bringing up tort law reminds us that anything that can be used for good purpose can be used for bad, 10 times over!
That, of course, is the whole reason people are against the government getting involved in areas that should be relegated to personal responsibility, since governmental laws ALWAYS have unintended consequences. One law does not fit all circumstances. In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg has gotten much criticism and praise for banning trans fat, supersized drinks and making it a law that calories had to be posted in menus. Are people only angry because they don’t like being told what to do? Is there a threat to trying to eliminate unhealthy things? To further complicate things, since we are already in the process of socialized medicine, do you have the right to do what you want, if I have to pay for it? Do I have the right to tell you what to eat if you weigh 250 and are a type II diabetic, and that is costing my tax money to pay for?
Let me know what you think. I don’t know for sure. I don’t want laws that stop me from doing what I like, but I can’t see the harm in guiding behavior in healthier lines, since we have companies doing so much to affect us psychologically and emotionally to buy their products that don’t help us at all. Can we educate everyone and inoculate them mentally to resist? Or do we legislate that companies cannot put certain things in their products, or use certain tactics to sell the items. Does knowing better actually lead to better behavior? I can attest that knowledge alone does not create change.