One of the foundational beliefs of civilization is the Free Will of the individual. That is, you and I have the ability to make our own decisions, and we have to take responsibility for them.
As with the other principles, that is not news to most normal people.
Here's the problem: the more “sophisticated“ and “educated” you are in the postmodern West, the more likely you are to question or ignore that principle.
The uber-educated have concluded the universe and all that is in it ... including you and I ... are just an accident. We are all just random molecules bouncing around - anything anyone does is purely the inevitable and predictable result of their genetics and what has happened to them up to that point.
Mr. (and Ms.) Irrelevant
Here’s the thing. That theory throws the idea of humanity out the window. That means there really is no good or bad. No right or wrong. No real love or hate. No accomplishment or failure. No virtue or vice. No such thing as a decision. No basis for self-esteem or self-improvement or self-worth. No grounds for guilt or innocence or accountability or punishment. Or even evil.
Nothing I do is my fault - it is just the inevitable next thing that was going to happen. I am no different than an irresponsible baby.
When is a Crime Not a Crime?
This destructive worldview has seeped into our society. One specific example is our justice system. The vast majority of us know how to obey the law. And, importantly for this discussion, we choose to. But, some people do not.
Fortunately, they occasionally get caught and arrested by police. The police see what actually happened. Even if they aren't there in time to experience the crime as it happens, they are confronted with the reality and the suffering of the victim - and the malice of the perp. Police officers live in the real world and typically have real common sense.
But then the criminal is handed over to the sterile ivory tower of the court system, populated with highly-protected and "highly-educated" attorneys. Unfortunately, some of these attorneys, including some of the DAs and judges, don't really believe in Free Will (at least for other, "lesser" people). They see the perpetrator as just as much a victim as the ... actual victim. So, they are extremely lenient. There are at least two consequences:
the victim and her/his family are denied justice. That is a basic human right and need which gets trivialized, if not ignored.
the criminal doesn't suffer the consequences of his/her action. That robs them of discipline which might help them become better people. It also robs them of the dignity of being an adult and "paying their debt to society." Yes, like all of us, criminals would typically rather get off the hook than endure consequences, but paying those consequences gives the perpetrator a chance to cultivate self-respect and a clear conscience and learn to be a contributing member of society. If they get off easy, the inclination is to fail again. Result: the criminals stay criminals and the rest of us endure more crime.
In our "sophisticated" world much of the above sounds quaint or archaic. But it isn't. It is a prerequisite for civilization.
A more pervasive impact of not believing in Free Will is a general lack of individual discipline and initiative. If you think you are just an automaton doomed to do what you are going to do, what you do will tend to deteriorate. Let's say you get up in the morning and think, "I don't really have a choice in the matter - it is predestined whether or not I am going to make my bed today - let's see what happens." Don't the odds of you making your bed go down?
There is a recent extremely popular video of a young attorney getting ready for work. She gets out of bed late and skips some of the steps, including brushing her teeth. During the process, she whines that she "just can't" do this or that today. I get it (like every morning when the alarm goes off), but this is something to be overcome, not embraced.
The denial of Free Will underpins the drive to replace equality of opportunity with equity of result. "If I can't help that I'm lazy, why should the person who works hard have more money than I do?"
If you are smarter than I am, the moral of this story probably lies in an application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but I prefer to reference the cartoon movie, Wall-E, where the humans become pathetic, obese wards of their La-Z-Boy recliners from lack of motivation.
"Make It So!"
Believing you have no control over the world, or even your own life, leads to inertia and depression, among other things.
Believing you have control over your life, and can impact the world, leads to striving and improvement and accomplishment and fulfillment.
Disavowing Free Will significantly dilutes our dignity and value as human beings. The fatalism that comes with it drives the infantilization we are seeing in our society - and the associated (though illogical) trend to make government our mommy/daddy.
You and I must assume we have Free Will. And we need to effectively hold others to that same assumption (and, for the record, even if it wasn't true, assuming it is still makes the world a much better place).