The Right to Make Bad Decisions

When I was young, my father made a point about the importance of looking at things from other points of view. He believed strongly in Dr. King’s dream that all people should judged by their character and work, not their race, creed, gender or any superficial aspect. I was a bit disappointed, therefore, to find his ideals a bit inconstant when I told him about my fiancé, shortly after I proposed to her. My wife, you see, is of a different race, and while in theory my father was a man of broad mind, in the actual event he was far narrower in his tolerance. As time passed, he came to respect my wife and when we had a daughter he was delighted, but I recall the incident as an example of the distance between ourselves and whom we would like to be. I have met some very fine people in my lifetime, some of whom were people of great integrity, courage and ideals, and some who dismayed me with their attitudes and behavior. I notice that as I got to know people better, while some were clearly better or worse in their morals and actions, none were completely worthless and no one was perfect. Also, some people whom I could not stand in one way, were good people in others. You have to really get to know the person to see more than one dimension of their character, and over time many of us learn from mistakes and our judgment and behavior improve. That should not really surprise anyone; the whole automobile insurance industry is predicated on the belief that experienced drivers are generally safer and better risks than new drivers, and that education and time will improve the skills and habits.

I have also learned that some folks have to find things out the hard way. Having just completed my MBA, I went looking around for advice on the classes I still need to take in order to sit for my CPA license. Along the way, I found an interesting website which had a number of college forums. I visited the section on business schools, and found some lively discussions, including a number of prolific members with strong opinions but poor experience. It’s fascinating in a way, how people will voice an opinion on something they have never done and about which they really know very little. Part of that, I suspect, is the attraction of online forums, where you can writer as long a post as you please without fear of interruption. Sure, you may get a sharp retort, but the thing there is that it comes in response to your article or comment, and that means you are making things happen. In blogging, that’s pretty cool, but it’s far less cool when politicians start doing it.

Laws. There’s no doubt that we need them, but at some point they get to be burdensome, especially when the guys passing the laws make sure that they are not forced to abide by those laws. And at some point they become unreasonable, ridiculous, and cross the line into tyranny. Take the seat-belt law, for example. I’m all in favor of people wearing seat belts, they are a great invention. But a law requiring everyone to wear a seat belt? That, to me, is over the line. Think about it – if I have an accident and I am stupid enough to not wear a seat belt, who does that hurt besides myself? It does not increase the danger of the situation for other drivers or pedestrians, or the public at large. So what is that law meant to do? It’s a law meant to keep us safe. That may sound good, but nowhere in the federal or any state Constitution does it say that the government can pass laws in order to make us safer from ourselves. That’s why it makes no sense to ban trans-fats. Yes, it’s stupid to gorge on things that will give you a heart attack, but the government has no business choosing the meals of honest citizens. It’s one thing and a good idea to require restaurants to tell is what’s in their foods, so we can make informed decisions, but quite another to tell us we cannot make those choices ourselves.

The government passes more and more laws every year, and for what? Some of them are necessary, but in truth most are not at all necessary, and more and more of them take away our choices in order to protect us from the consequences of those choices. The thing is, if we are not allowed to make our choices, to face natural limits to what we can do and to see the direct consequences of our actions, instead being told by the nanny state that others will decide for us, then how do we learn? People today decry what they see as environmental threats, but they fail to realize that humans have faced such threats before – efforts to eradicate rats began when it was discovered that they carried plague, sanitation of the water supply began when it was discovered (then forgotten and later rediscovered) that there was a way to provide a clean water supply and remove foul waste, and coal was largely replaced with oil as the new energy source proved more efficient and cleaner. All of this happened without a single environmentalist agency. We are quite capable to seeing and addressing our needs through our own faculties and efforts, if only the government would stop pretending we cannot. Our economic markets can repair themselves, indeed history shows they always have, if only the government would stop borrowing generations of future earnings to try to create a solution by artifice. And the voters can be trusted to find and support the best candidates and political platform, there is no need or cause to keep presenting us with a PR-spun packaged candidate as fake as the late MJ’s nose.

We will make mistakes, to be sure. Some of them will be huge blunders, and that’s a fact. But that’s how we learn, and for all the best intentions of government, it’s more than time for these esteemed politicians to stop spending our children’s future, stop pretending they can control everything and prevent any bad news, and just go home to do some honest work. They do far more harm than good, and it’s apparent they are learning nothing themselves.

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