Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Liberal Values Part II: Autonomy of the Individual

Our multi-part series to explore liberal values based on the definition from that we promote here at TTGSIMH:
Liberalism: A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority. [Also a] 19th-century Protestant movement that favored free intellectual inquiry, stressed the ethical and humanitarian content of Christianity, and de-emphasized dogmatic theology
So what do we mean by "autonomy of the individual"? To start from the basics I went back to the dictionary.

  1. The condition or quality of being autonomous; independence.
    1. Self-government or the right of self-government; self-determination.
    2. Self-government with respect to local or internal affairs: granted autonomy to a national minority.
  2. A self-governing state, community, or group.
Synonyms: freedom, liberty, self-determination, self-government, self-rule, sovereignty

To me freedom is not some willy-nilly escape from responsibility and authority. My basic belief about the nature of freedom was captured in this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. "Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect."

Therefore to me, inherent in the definition of liberalism is the belief that we should take responsibility for ourselves as individuals. The wingnuts may preach the word accountability but to me it is essential to the definition of my beliefs.

Archiving the Comments
If liberals are synonymous with "taking responsibility for ourselves", why the adamant liberal support for welfare programs?

Just something to think about.

Gravatar I believe in welfare programs to the extent that there are those who CANNOT take care of themselves. The issues come from people who WILL NOT take care of themselves, and that is really the area of greatest curiousity for me.

The thing that is interesting about this belief in independence/responsibility to me is that my conservative friends and I agree right up to the point where I interject that I/we have some responsibility for those who cannot take care of themselves. Then I really stagger them when I propose that for some of the ones who will not, they may need some help - training, etc. I think I see the word "responsibility" as being much bigger than they do - it is my responsibility to society as well my responsibility to take care of myself.

We care about what happens to our fellow man and our society as a whole. The Republicans don't. Period.

Just my own way of putting this, I suppose: There is substantial difference between responsibility for your own life, and responsibility for things you do not control.

The former is appropriate and necessary, the second is responsibility without authority or control. Which is the surest way to drive people bat-shit.