I believe strongly that individual freedom is the cornerstone of a successful nation. Consequently I also believe strongly in personal responsibility, for without personal responsibility individual freedom cannot exist. While governments, businesses, and other organizations are obviously necessary for protection and prosperity, it is of paramount importance that those organizations do not undermine the freedom of the individuals within.
The principal role of government should be to defend the nation, ensure individual freedom and equality under the law, and work toward equality of opportunity WITHOUT trying to enforce equality of outcome. One could call me a libertarian; however, unlike most libertarians I believe that businesses and other large collective bodies--not just government--can be a significant threat to the individual if they grow too powerful. Businesses have an obligation to treat workers and customers fairly, especially since the labor market is by its nature not a free market. It is particularly dangerous when businesses or industries work in cahoots with government, procuring special favors which distort the free market and throw equality of opportunity out of whack.
I also do not intend to advocate for selfishness; as an AmeriCorps veteran I do not share the Objectivist belief that selfishness is a virtue. With individual freedom comes a responsibility to look out for others. Selfishness, instead, is precisely the reason why centralized power fails. There are very few truly selfless people in the world, and those people cannot be found in public office. Power only increases a person's selfish tendencies. And that is why we have seen so many politicians who claim to act for the public good, but end up serving only their friends, their campaign donors, and segments of the population that they think they can bribe into voting for them again.