by Timothy Baldwin, J.D.

Diffusion of Responsibility” carries this definition: “a sociopsychological phenomenon whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for an action or inaction when others are present.” This is not a new concept, of course. It was recognized and discussed by philosophers and students of human nature for thousands of years. It was used in discussing different forms of State and government to explain which is better under what circumstances, including the United States. Let us consider the phenomena of Diffusion of Responsibility and relate it to our constitution and government.

Illustration Concerning ‘U.S. Senator, Mr. Common Fiction’

A few members of the U.S. Senate introduce a bill, consisting of thousands of pages. The Committee initially reviewing the bill recommends it be discussed at large. It goes to the floor for debate and consideration, and then for vote.

Hearings are held and expert witnesses testify. Corporations present scientific data for consideration. Credible assurances are made that the bill is necessary and the wording is accurate to meet real-life needs. Private and government attorneys testify about the bill’s constitutionality—all of the government attorneys holding that the bill is constitutional, but a few reputable private attorneys insist it is not.

Major media sources make the bill appear one way; alternative media states near the opposite. Limbaugh disagrees with Beck; Hannity disagrees with Napolitano; and vice versa. Fox News shows polls that 45% of Americans polled oppose it and 55% support it. The political party elites are using every tool to influence the vote.

Constituents on both sides of the issue voice their opinion in support or opposition—but only .05% of the constituents contacted the Senators to express their opinion. However, hundreds of Lobby groups have bombarded the Senators, consuming the staff’s time to deal with anything else. Among the Tea Party polls, 20% support it; the rest oppose it. The Republican Party supports it in large part; the Democrat Party opposes it in part.

There is not much opportunity to debate the bill because the docket is full, time is short, and the session is about to end; but it “must be decided before recess”. There are some questionable provisions in particular (in conjunction with some other laws that exist but are not discussed or known) which make the bill covertly unconstitutional.

Among the chaos, Senator Common Fiction, who claims to be a “constitutional conservative”, has to make a decision. In reality, Senator Fiction is not certain about the bill’s constitutionality but thinks it may not be constitutional. At the least, he knows the bill will continue to grow the federal government—a trend he has criticized openly. But the pressure at every point is building; and if he does not vote a certain way, the political backlash will be too great. All the while, he considers that his reelection may be undermined if he votes the wrong way. In fact, the uppers in his party told him if he does not vote in favor of this bill, then it is conceivable they will not be able to find enough party support for his upcoming bill—which of course will tremendously increase commerce in his district, thus virtually guaranteeing his reelection.

Senator Common Fiction’s thought process:

“My vote will not decide the fate of this bill or its treatment in the future; it certainly won’t destroy A