Thursday, August 13, 2009

Civic Involvement as a Parental Duty

In his most recent column, Jonah Goldberg wrote this intriguing statement:

And that’s what I love about dogs. They just don’t care about such things, and they encourage you not to care either — at least while you’re with them. You can’t say the same thing about children, because they grow up and inherit the society we leave behind. Being a good parent requires caring about politics.

Emphasis added. I understand his argument, but I think that it's overstated. It's the same reasoning as Harry Browne's "burning issue trap": that some pressing threat against the common good requires personal sacrifice.

It's possible for one person to have a meaningful impact on public life, but unlikely, and an individual's resources of time, money, and energy are finite. One must spend them wisely.

I'd like to build a better world for my daughter to live in, but I think that my chances of success are extremely low. I can, however, build a better life for her. That lies within my resources; saving the world does not.

So I could, for example, spend a hundred hours writing letters to Congressmen arguing for Second Amendment rights, or I could spend an hour playing with her. The latter is more likely to benefit her than the former.

This is why, though I am very sympathetic to the Tea Party movement, I have not joined any of their protests or made any monetary donations. Because of the unlikelihood that I will effect any significant change on the nation as a whole, any time, money, and energy that I spend on that movement simply deprives my daughter of that same time, money, and energy.

Now if everyone took this attitude, this country would go to hell in a handbasket very quickly. But I'm not trying to be everyone; I'm trying to be me. I'm not trying to determine how everyone should live; I'm trying to determine how I should live. I'm not trying to make my daughter's future world a better place; I'm trying to make her individual life a better one to live. And I think that therein lies my true parental duty.


bob said...

My civic involvement runs towards voting and maybe in conversation trying to sway a vote or two. Like you I have better uses for my time and energies than volunteering or donating.

Larry B said...

I might suggest you can have an impact on your daughter's life locally on things like a city council or a school board. In my opinion that's a far better investment in civic involvement if you would like to do that than worrying too much about nebulous national movements.

LargeBill said...

I wouldn't donate to any political race. Politicians have shown they will just waste the money. Goldberg's point still has merit. We should all care enough to at least become informed voters. The results of last November's election illustrates the power of ignorance.

Anonymous said...

There are ways to "build a better world" that don't involve letters to congress, Tea Parties, or donations to a political party... and that might have more immediate (even if limited) impact than any of those things.

I very much want a better world for my son. Part of the better world I want him to have means one in which he grows up with a dad who actually has the time to be with him, do things with him, support him. Beyond that, there a whole slew of ways to become involved in the community... for me, working weekend hours on an organic farm, participating in any sort of "community development" stuff that comes along, working on advancing anything that is in line with my family's principles-- I need for my son to see me doing that, I believe it matters, and it almost never involves any sort of direct political involvement.

John said...

Larry B, it's possible that I could have a bigger impact locally. But that would bring me into personal contact with politicians. They are, in my experience, dangerous people and should be avoided.

John said...

Beyond that, there a whole slew of ways to become involved in the community

Good idea, Jockeystreet. It was fallacious of me to consider the state and the community to be synonymous.