Initiative: Human Agency and Society

Thursday, June 1, 2000

Do human beings truly possess the capacity to initiate their own conduct? How does this matter in politics and public policy? In this book, Tibor Machan takes a fresh look at the age-old question of nature's laws versus individual choice. He offers an insightful discussion of human initiative as a basic feature of our personal and community lives— examining whether we are warranted in taking it seriously and, if so, what we should do about it in regard to some of our basic institutions.

Writing on a level that educated laypeople can understand—yet without oversimplifying the nuances and complexities of the issue—Machan reveals what's at stake and why the free will hypothesis is indeed a strong one. If we cannot act on our own initiative, says the author, then our behavior occurs independent of any original influence by us, and we live neither an ethically good nor an ethically bad life, free of blame or praise. If, however, we possess the capacity to take the initiative and determine on our own some of what we do, then we are responsible and often culpable when we act. Consequently, ethics and law become bona fide concerns in our lives, and the implications are everywhere in evidence— in personal relations, politics, criminal law, social work, and public policy. We need only to look to the recent spate of lawsuits against the tobacco companies to realize the serious legal and public policy consequences of acknowledging—or denying—individual accountability. Our nature as free and responsible living beings is not the only vital fact about us, but it is very likely the most important. If it is not a myth, as many contend, then we should acknowledge it everywhere human affairs are at stake. Initiative: Human Agency and Society does just that.

Copyright 2000.