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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Individual Responsibility and Shared Responsibility

Our criminal law is firmly based on the concept of individual responsibility.  This foundation is a practical necessity.  Each person is held accountable for their actions.  There is no other way to proceed in public or private life.

Shared responsibility is a much more abstract concept.  Existing climate or prevalent environment reflects the mores of society at large.  A healthy and safe environment is a shared responsibility.  Shared responsibilities impinge on individual responsibility and vice versa.  Difficulties arise when this impingement is negative rather than positive.  Individual behavior is obviously impacted by the prevalent social climate and its generally accepted standards and practices.  Even if the skids to perdition are greased, it is still the rule to affix responsibility individually and let the proximate cause go free.  There is no way to conveniently and practically affix blame on a large number.  When I hear said with great satisfaction that “the individual responsible” has been brought to justice, I can’t help but consider the vast number of respectable, self-righteous enablers who share responsibility but for practical reasons will never face a day in court.