To help me understand the idea of how left and right see personal responsibility, I was told about the situation with Greece when it entered the EU. At that point, Greece was a country that was not particularly wealthy and it based a lot of its economy on tourism and exporting food items. However, unemployment levels were low and most people fully owned their homes- no mortgages! However, upon joining the EU, two forces met each other. One was the force of German banks, flush with cash to lend, looking at Greek households where people have low consumer debt (not much in terms of credit cards), no mortgages, and decent jobs (and good businesses). It was every banker's wet dream! The other force in question was the Greek households' hunger for consumer goods- imported washers and dryers, Ikea furniture, luxury cars and so on. These two went hand in hand and completely out of control. On the one hand you had banks sending credit cards to people- just activate and go! Also, people would walk into Porsche dealerships and say I need a car and the financing for it, and the dealership would say no problem at all. Oh, and why wouldn't they? On the other hand, the Greek population thought this was the new normal- everyone got on the spend train so why not. Fast forward a few years, and Greece now stands a bankrupt country, in no small part due to these two forces joining hands and creating an epic storm.
What does this story have to do with our everyday lives or the North American left vs right debates? It has a lot to do with all of it, insofar as determining whose fault the Greek situation was, and us picking a side- each according to his or her own judgment.
The left would say that the banks and the government are to blame for what happened in Greece. The German (and other) bankers used predatory lending, low interest rates, easy approvals and complicated loan agreements no one reads to dupe many Greek households into taking on debt levels they could not service if even the slightest of things go wrong in their lives. The government, on its part, failed to identify this threat and properly educate and/or protect the Greek households from this impending financial ruin that was initially disguised as a blessing. So, it is up to different collectives of people- such as big banks and governments- to watch out for, protect, and even make the choices for individual members of the society- for their own benefit. Also, if the government is to watch over and limit the reach of not just bankers, but also any other business or group that could "hurt" the population, the government has to swell its ranks and the population has to pay for it, which means higher taxes and less take-home pay. But hey, you get the protection you need so it's totally worth it.
The right, on the other hand, would interpret the facts of what Greece went through in the spirit of individualism. Banks are there to make money and they have responsibilities to their employees, shareholders and also to everyone whose future pension money is being invested over many decades to they can retire well. This is the banks' individual responsibility. The government has the responsibility to run the country's military, tax collection, enforce the law etc., so basically everything that needs to be done to call Greece- Greece! However, beyond these basic things, it is not supposed to intervene further in the lives of its citizens. Finally, the Greek citizens have a personal responsibility to seek out knowledge and educate themselves to the best of their ability about the deals they make, contracts they sign and ventures they undertake- before they begin any of these, as well as to continue learning as they go along! In this view, as long as you are doing a good job educating yourself on how much and what sort of debt you can take on, you don't need to pay the government more to swell its ranks with employees who will protect you from making financial mistakes, and the banks themselves cannot put a gun to your head and make you activate a credit card and then promptly max it out. If some people fail to educate themselves, make mistakes and end up falling through the cracks, there is always someone who can help as long as the unfortunate person is willing to get on the path of fixing things.
So basically, what I was told through this example and its elaboration was to ignore a lot of the media click bait and sensationalism, as well as to ignore a lot of debates that are made to look like left vs right but are just lots of hot air and have no real bearing on everyday life. In truth, you'll know what these ignore-worthy debates and "issues" are when you see them. What matters is the fundamental debate about what direction our society is shifting towards, and separate but equally important, what direction your individual life is shifting towards. Out of the two, your life's direction matters most of all. If you are taking responsibility over everything and learning about everything in your life too, you'll drown in information and overwork due to micromanaging things. If you pay through the nose to have other people take responsibility for you in all aspects of your life, you'll meet financial ruin.
The best thing to do, it seems, is to hover somewhere in the middle. Don't worry about your weaknesses- just make sure you don't have too many and that you can afford to have one collective or another take care of them, and you go ahead and pay for it (give your dues). Hone your strengths to the point where they prove to be a net benefit to you and you'll be all right. Everything else is just noise of one group or another lobbying for something.