Governor Noem continues to insist that her personal responsibility strategy in corralling COVID-19 has been a success because South Dakota has not reached the number of hospitalizations and deaths forecast by the worst-case scenario she presented in early March.
Still, as Dr. Bonny Specker recently noted in her letter to the Register, our number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths per capita has placed South Dakota among the very worst states during the last few weeks. Perhaps it is time to re-examine personal responsibility as a strategy and consider social responsibility as a more appropriate strategy.
The principle of personal responsibility holds that our personal wellbeing is primarily the result of our own words and actions or inactions, and we ought not look to others including government for that wellbeing.
It is a traditional conservative principle and warrants a level of acceptance. However, the principle of personal responsibility also holds that we must understand the consequences of our words and actions, or inactions and stand accountable for each. If our words, actions, or inactions result in harm to others, we must accept the blame and pay the price.
Criminal and civil law in the U.S. is based upon this principle. Of course, being held accountable is not possible when you are COVID-19 asymptomatic and spread the virus to others who may experience hospitalization or death because of your decision not to wear facial covering while mingling in public. Your feeling so free in not wearing a mask has resulted in harm to others, but you avoid the blame because “who knew you were the culprit?” So much for personal responsibility as an effective strategy.
On the other hand, the principle of social responsibly holds that you enjoy personal benefits or wellbeing as a member of a larger society and, in turn, you ought to act in a manner that respects the wellbeing of other members of that society.
It is the Golden Rule stuff or Jesus Christ’s teaching that you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself. Selfishness or the solitary pursuit of one’s own wellbeing is the antithesis of social responsibility. Under the principle of social responsibility, persons voluntarily consent to restraint on unfettered freedom because foolish actions can result in harm to other members of the society that you rely upon for you own wellbeing. Be a responsible member of our society. Temper your actions that present a threat to the health or wellbeing of others. Wear a facial covering along with your shirt and pants before you mingle with the public. I promise, your neighbor will be appreciative.