There are certain fundamental concepts that rule society. It is the acknowledgment of these concepts, I believe, that comprises the core of conservatism. Ignorance of the meaning or import of these concepts can and does have a detrimental effect on society and governance.
High among these concepts is an understanding of consequence. In fact, an understanding of consequence is requisite to the understanding and, more important the practice of personal responsibility.
Study the etymology of the word “consequence” and you’ll find that it boils down basically, to the Latin word “consequi” which means “to follow“. From the same Latin root we get the word “sequel“. Consequence is then an action (or reaction, if you prefer) that follows an initial action or choice more surely than a sequel follows an initial movie. No action or choice is without consequence.
One of my sons and I have been through the study of consequence together in great detail. As a standing rule in our home, corporal punishment is doled out solely for willful disobedience. The offender must know that their action is in violation of an established rule and willfully choose to engage in the activity regardless of that fact. On one particular occasion several years ago, my son received a swat on the butt for some willful act of roguishness. As he nursed a stinging bum-cheek and wallowed in self-pity, the following conversation took place:
“If you love me, why would you want to hurt me?”
“Most of the rules that I make buddy, are to keep you safe; I want you to be safe because I love you.”
“But spankings hurt!”
“Do you want another one?”
“That’s the point then.” “If you choose to break that rule again, you’ll know that the consequence is unpleasant and you will, I hope, choose differently and stay safe.”
What followed was a discussion of how consequence flows naturally from action or choice. I told him how an egg dropped on the floor will crack and splatter. That is the natural result of dropping an egg, the consequence of the act. Logic tells us that holding a raw egg out at arm’s length and releasing it will not result in the egg being suspended in mid-air. No matter how much we wish for a different result, there’s going to be splatter. The laws of the universe do not care how you came to drop that egg, whether you were coerced, bumped, had butter-fingers… it makes no difference, the end result is unquestionable.
The same law of consequence applies to all areas of life. If you quit your job, you eventually run out of money. If you break a law, you will suffer the consequential punishment. If you purchase a home that you cannot afford, you’re going to be foreclosed upon. If you load your business with toxic debt, you’re going to go bankrupt.
Even avoiding natural consequence has consequence. Consequence is there to teach. In avoiding consequence, one avoids the lesson and will likely be faced with the same situation again. If you are rescued from the consequence of your folly, you will consequently repeat it in one form or another because you cannot make an egg hover in mid air.