In a previous post, on a Tuesday long long ago, I mentioned Dan Barber’s idea of responsibility and how actions metaphorically corresponded to deposits and withdrawals from a collective bank. I also mentioned that ideas of responsibility don’t always mesh since I disagreed at first with one conception of it.
The idea of responsibility has, for a long time, dominated my thoughts. So naturally part of that analyzing involves pondering what responsibility means? I think there are actually two types of responsibility.
On a small scale, micro-responsibility, like micro-economics, is what can be directly attributed to, or seen as a result of, your actions. This would be legal responsibility. A caused B to happen and A could guess C could potentially result. B did lead to bad result C. If not for A creating B, no C. How reasonable is the implication of C? If it’s very reasonable for C to flow from B then A is very responsible. If it is a stretch to think that C would flow from B then A is not that responsible. Legally, it’s a question of “reasonable.” You are only legally responsible for what you can “reasonably” foresee occurring.
But, Dan Barber is discussing another, larger, type of responsibility. It opposes arguments that people don’t matter. “Why vote in elections when there are so many people? Why does one single drop of water matter in an endless ocean?” Dan Barber argues, I think, that “yes, in fact, your voice does matter.”
If we view our actions as investments in a bank, and see that we all access that account, a global account for all people (unfortunately not a real account I have access to), we realize that every action in some way effects us. Macro-responsibility like macro-economics. You shouldn’t feel aimless and drowning. You shouldn’t feel like your actions are entirely pointless. You should feel like your actions are at least somewhat meaningful. They amount to a deposit or withdrawal that changes the account balance that some other entirely random person may confront. And they may change the balance you confront.
In Dan Barber’s analogy the Earth, the world, our society is akin to the bank. Because you have access to the account, any action you take changes the available balance. You know that, so while you might not be legally held responsible for an action, you can reasonably assume that, because you can access the account, your actions may change the balance.