When a 16-year-old boy crashes his dad’s car and is arrested for driving while intoxicated, who is responsible?
When a 10-year-old boy is morbidly obese from an addiction to food, who is responsible?
When an infant girl is diagnosed with a genetic disease, who is responsible?
The questions are simple, but the answers are complicated.
: the state of being the person who caused something to happen
: a duty or task that you are required or expected to do
: something that you should do because it is morally right, legally required, etc.
Blame is one thing. Full responsibility is another. Let’s start with blame.
- Who is the person or group that deserves the most blame?
- Who else directly contributed to this problem?
- Who or what indirectly contributed to the problem?
- Was there any culpable negligence involved?
In the movie, The Big Short, we learned about who was to blame for the housing and banking crisis that kicked off the Great Recession of 2007-2009. You remember that little thing that nearly dismantled the American economy? Most likely, you or someone you care about was deeply hurt by that economic crisis. Millions of innocent people lost something major: job, home, retirement money, savings, home equity, credit rating, etc. And every American felt the stress of it all. The movie went to great lengths to explain who was to blame, and in the end, the fingerprints of blame were found throughout the economic world: some big banks, lots of mortgage brokers, the SEC, the ratings agencies, hedge fund managers, and even some legislators, reporters, and consumers. There was no single bad guy with a black hat or swastika to blame, but rather there were systems of corruption that created wealth for a few with accountability to none. And it was their systems that caused a meltdown in the economy.
The one thing they all had in common was a lack of responsibility. So many were behaving irresponsibly. Sure, some admitted some level of blame, but nobody stepped forward to fix the problem until it was far too late.
Identifying the cause(s) of a problem is one thing: Who did it? How did it happen? But it’s another level of responsibility to fix the problem. That is real responsibility. Who cleans up the mess? Who will work and pay for restoration?
Blame vs. Restoration