Whose responsibility is it?

This is a sampling of responses solicited from organizers of the Responsibility project via slips in SU boxes. They have been graciously provided by Monty Silva ’03.

The United States’ Young Child poverty rate is substantially higher- often two-to-three times higher-than of the other major western industrialized nations. Whose responsibility is it?

1. Don’t waste my time again with something so useless. I’m all for action, but this does nothing but piss me off.

2. We’re so damned conservative half of the United States thinks that pure capitalism is a good idea, and this is the result. We’re so proud of our freedom and equality and democracy, and we don’t realize how much more freedom and equality those in other western nations have, lifting more out of the senseless poverty to give them the ability to pursue happiness the American mindset though, is that people are poor through some character fault; laziness (the Calvinists are still with us) I’m babbling.

3. Why, obviously, this is a problem of the United States. The U.S. has the money to change this situation and so they should. Do something!! I am a big critic of this capitalistic system of gathering wealth and the widening of the gap between rich and poor. Social mobility in the U.S. is very low, much lower than in Europe, and I think that one thing the U.S. could do to help poor people and children is wealth redistribution. Taxing richer people more to level the playing field some more. This statistic is a shame!

4. It’s the responsibility of the government for not making programs accessible enough. It’s the responsibility of the people for not using programs to their fuels and for living in ignorance of the programs that are available. It’s our responsibility because we waste our time living in a purple bubble, letting the problem continue, when we could stop contemplating ideas and start solving them. It will remain our responsibility until we take action and until the problems are terminated.

5. It’s the responsibility of all people. However, a greater burden of responsibility falls on people who earn disproportionately high incomes for the work they do (i.e. many, many, wealthy people), because it means others are getting worse and negative return of benefits proportionate to the work they do.

6. No one’s.

7. An unanswerable question, and I doubt the efficiency of guilt. Please remember: Guilt is not love. Of course, producing love takes something other than photographs and statistics. What I do not know. Obviously, close contact-but when that is not possible or even desirable? But guilt may be more than les than perfect. It may be destructive to what we need to do in this world. How? How?

8. It’s the American taxpayers. It is both pragmatically and morally wrong to allow such a system to exist – pragmatically because children growing up in poverty are likely to be a greater expense to society in the long run. For example, because of health care or a greater likelihood of being dependant or being imprisoned or morally because it is not acceptable for children to suffer. The U.S. needs to make its tax system more progressive, shift funding, prioritize and realize that extent to which the situation is a national shame.

9. Ours. We Americans. As a powerful and political force, the U.S. as a whole enjoys one of the world’s highest standards of living. But as a product of our cultural and political history, we fear systems that provide socially beneficial economic conditions-for political reasons. Capitalism allows freedoms and affords benefits for those who can ‘compete’ but leaves behind those who cannot. Most Europeans pay much higher taxes as an integral part of their social contract. We fear too much government, and suffer (as a whole) the cost of that fear.

10. These young children would not be so hungry were they to be working in the factories by the age of eight. Their little fingers fit into the machines best as they are slender little beasties. Remember: long hours equal food.

In 1999, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway, CEO Warren Buffet and Microsoft alum Paul Allen had a combined wealth of 156 billion. This topped the combined gross national products of the poorest 43 nations in the world. Whose Responsibility is it?

1. They earned it! They deserve it! Stop attacking the producers!

2. We need a far steeper graduate income tax to discourage corporate leaders from keeping so much profit holed away rather than redistributing through the economy.

3. Redistribute the wealth. Their money doesn’t come from nowhere; it’s grabbed from the plates and paychecks of honest, hard working people. Take their money. Vaccinate kids.

4. I think it’s obscene. Facts like this make me question capitalism.

5. It’s the responsibility of the United States (legislature and citizens voting for/otherwise influencing the legislature) since it is U.S. laws and politics that allow individuals to make a killing on capital gains over and above its use to society. We need a much more progressive tax on income and capital gains. The reinvestment in human capital that would be possible with those revenues would more than offset whatever potential trickle-down loss would be experienced from reducing incentives for individuals to become obscenely wealthy.

6. Not the people like Gates who earned the money through their gains and ability. They earn money as they and few others can, and it is criminal to force them to give up their earning to moochers with no abilities and looters of the products of wealth. Bill Gates can only be faulted for not assessing his moral right to his own money and own company. It’s hatred of the good for being, hatred of the smart for being smart, and hatred of the able for their ability.

7. Sorry everyone couldn’t be as innovative, creative and wise as they were!

8. Do you want to punish people because they are “too successful” by your standards? Or do you think that they should be compelled to use their wealth for philanthropic gestures? You can’t and shouldn’t dictate their morality or anyone else’s. it is a person’s choice to claim responsibility – it is not your job to attempt to lay it on others as you would blame.

9. It would be unfair to curb their incomes – In fact their high incomes just create incentives for better production and better inventions – this monetary incentive has given us a rapidly growing technology sector that is making the world more advanced. What is wrong is that Bill Gates builds a $10 million home; this is unnecessary and wasteful – they should give their slush funds to charity – which they already do, but they should give more, and just live simpler, more modest lives.

10. The responsibility of whoever holds power in the 43 poorest nations for keeping their countries so damn unproductive (it takes some doing, since people are naturally industrious and information on productivity is easily available). So it’s not mine, unless you want me to force unproductive people and countries to better themselves.

11. Like professional sports teams, nations should have sponsors. Bill Gates could sponsor small, underdeveloped nations. In return, his face could go on their flag and all their computer systems (donated by Gates) would use Internet Explorer, not Netscape.

12. They earned their wealth and should not be made to feel guilty about their hard work and luck. Their wealth does not require them to use it to ease the suffering of others.

Social Responsibility. HIT or MISS? Tell us YOUR impressions of the project.

1. Great, because it started discussions and we probably know each other that much better now. So the things about it people have been saying is that it is out there, (who cares about what’s going on in Africa, or wherever, well I do. A lot.) And people don’t seem to realize in this little cocoon is that they are not going to be here forever. So, I think it is worth all the work that’s been put into it and I applaud you.

2. Miss: you guys/girls need to tone it way down. We get the point. Are you going to tell us whose responsibility it is?

3. Painful!! Too much is too much. After a certain point I am numbed and even if I began to care I got so sick of the guilt trip that I merely had contempt in the end. Good try though, sometimes less is more however.

4. Terrible miss – why didn’t you guys focus on one specific problem-rather than addressing a host of issues abstractly-rather than urging people to volunteer with the homeless. You tried to get people to become intimately involved with child soldiers, environment degradation, poverty, bad health care, et cetera. What the hell are we supposed to do about that here?

5. I like it. It’s nice to know Williams might not be completely apathetic. Plus, a little disturbing, unsettling, perhaps in a good way, to have “unpleasant” pictures in campus buildings.

6. I applaud the effort but your system of expression and the question you ask is inherently flawed. You did the best you could with what is essentially a bad concept. Good intentions. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

7. I think the fact it bothers some people shows it has had an effect on campus. Those who never felt responsible now have a doubt in their minds, and others will feel compelled to do something. It has cured our apathy.

8. It’s amazing how many unenlightened things were written in the library. I think that getting people to discuss social responsibility is a good thing.

9. Flaming, illogical, anti-man, racist, communist, leftist running rampant and forgetting, “At whose expense?” Blank Out.

10. It’s jarring and upsetting to see some of those pictures and I am really appreciative to be shaken up like that. It makes me more conscious on a daily basis of all the things going on around me and all of the things I take for granted. Thanks

11. It’s a hit except many individuals on this campus are resistant to the notion that their lifestyles should be scrutinized somewhat and that they should try to make a difference. However, with all the badgering perhaps the project should be “What Can I Do?”

12. I think it got people talking and, whether or not we all like what people have to say is important. It is a whole lot better than silence and definitely enables us to know what people are thinking. You made people think. That’s not easy. Congrats!

13. This has been the best awareness campaign I’ve seen on campus. I’m glad you focused on a broad range of issues without easy answers. Although, the posters always seemed to me to be yelling “It’s your fault!” That just makes people obstinate and defensive. The wide range of speakers had been very interesting; in conjunction with The New York Times delivery I’m more aware of certain issues now. I think there needs to be more focus on solutions in the campaign. They weren’t easy, but I saw a few organized discussion/solution events.

14. Good impression. Excellent idea. People on this campus tend to be so self-absorbed and privileged, definitely a touch of reality for a sterile campus. Seems as if some at Williams College are too immature for reality, deciding to hide in the Purple Bubble’s comfort zone. Nothing but love and praise; it should extend through next year.

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