INDIANAPOLIS – My phone buzzed. “Hello,” he said. “I’ll write your column this week.”
“You call up and expect me to abandon my pulpit.” I objected.

“You don’t know me?” he said. “I’m Donnie Daze, TV ethicist, guide to millions who seek a self-righteous path.”

“A TV evangelist!” I laughed. “What dogma do you preach?”

“TV Ethicist!” he insisted. “ I don’t preach. I teach from first principles about human nature.”
“What first principles?” I asked.

“Survival via self-interest,” Donnie answered. “the foundation of rational thought, the heart of social responsibility, the essence of the social contract.”

I felt uncomfortable. Donnie continued, “I hear from several of your unvaxed friends you’re vexed by them not following the demands of this or that authority.”

“You’re one of those…...” I couldn’t finish the thought as Donnie broke in with “Darn Right.”

“We are responsible for ourselves,” he said. ”We can’t expect others to assume concern for our wellbeing once we become adult, sentient beings.”

I said, “Does that mean we all have responsibility for our own health?”

“Exactly,” he confirmed. “If a person doesn’t wish to be vaccinated against COVID, s/he should be denied free or discounted health care. ‘My body, my choice.’ It applies to seat belts, safety helmets, stop signs, pregnancy, and vaccination.”

“That means,” I interjected, ”only the very wealthy can be reckless.”

“Precisely,” Donnie smiled. “Personal responsibility, not social dependency is the foundation of society.

“But,” I wondered, “what about those who have been injured by others, those who have been shortchanged by life?”

“No problem,” Donnie declared. “If a person is the victim of another’s action, the injured person deserves restitution or compensation. Everyone should have insurance for that, and such insurance should be mandatory. Personal responsibility means not allowing your actions to harm others, Likewise, you must protect yourself against the harmful actions of others.

“Mandatory insurance against air and water pollution?” I was alarmed.

“How else can you develop a society where people are responsible?” Donnie asked. “Automobile insurance has it right. Collision insurance against the actions of others and liability insurance to cover our own failures. Now, shortchanged by life,” he continued, “is a slightly different story.

“Nature’s destructive force or a no-fault job loss may require special insurance programs,” Donnie argued. “And we already fail to buy enough insurance for natural and man-made disasters, unemployment and business interruption.”

“Wow,” I said. “Are you a lobbyist for the insurance industry? Most often, money doesn’t compensate for life’s lost opportunities.”

Donnie objected. “I believe in a personal responsibility that goes beyond endorsing, but actually embracing diversity, equity, and equality of access to and from the law.”

“You’re suggesting an unrealistic society,” I said. “Seems like a nation of poverty-stricken hermits. I’ll write my own column, thank you.”  
Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at Follow his views and those of John Guy on “Who Gets What?” wherever podcasts are available or at