Dangerous Risk Aversion

This week has been an interesting week in the offshore oil drilling biz. President Obama got his wrist slapped a second time for trying to shut down all drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and a second oil platform suffered a major fire.

President Obama’s rationale seems to be that the risks of environmental catastrophe, like we maybe/nearly had with the BP leak, are too great. I’ll let others fight over that one; I’ve got bigger fish to fry here.

We’ve had offshore oil drilling for decades. And in that time, we’ve had exactly one major disaster — this summer’s. That’s a pretty impressive statistic. Unless, of course, you’re a Gulf fisherman or someone else directly and severely affected by it. Then it’s damned lousy.

Decades of safe operation, one bad incident, and Obama’s ready to pull the plug. Why does that sound familiar?

Oh, yes, nuclear power. Decades of safe operation in the US, then one near-disaster — and BAM! No new plants in the US. Period. The only reactors built since then have been bolted to US Navy submarines and aircraft carriers. And at Three Mile Island, nobody died.

Oh, yeah, there was Chernobyl, but the real lessons of that disaster is that Communism leads to lethal incompetence and mass deaths — and a lot of us already knew that.

There are two points that need to be addressed here. The first is that, simply, we need energy. We need energy if we are going to survive — not even prosper, just survive — as a civilization. Our whole society is structured around relatively cheap, readily available energy. When we shut down whole categories of energy sources, we impair not only our ability to prosper, but to continue to exist.

The other is that everything has dangers. Despite what decades of scumbag lawyers have told us, nothing is perfectly safe, and we have no right to demand absolute safety. (This is, I believe, related to “no one must ever be allowed to fail, because it could hurt their fragile self esteem” movement that is crippling us as individuals.)

EVERYTHING has risks. Period. Nothing is absolutely safe. Life is about balancing the risks, taking chances, weighing the dangers versus the benefits.

Yes, we need to exert caution whenever we can. We need to give these highly risky endeavors like deep offshore drilling and nuclear power plants and whatnot several layers of protection, precautions, safety measures, and so on. We need to do all we realistically can to minimize our risks.

But we can’t eliminate risk altogether. That’s simply not possible. And all we do when we try to is to end up smothering ourselves.

In the case of Gulf drilling, we need to figure out what went wrong, and take steps from keeping it happening again. But we went decades without a disaster like we just underwent; to shut down all drilling is a gross overreaction. (It makes me wonder if “safety” is the only motivator here, or if it’s part of some larger agenda.)

But we — as individuals and as a society — need to be able to take risks. We need to be able to risk failure if we are going to succeed. To avoid risk is to avoid change, to avoid growth, to avoid progress, to avoid success.

There is no such thing as perfect safety. We cannot hold out for certainty from risk. As Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Especially in a Democratic administration.

"They smiled in our faces and then stabbed us in the back"
Honey, I Blew Up The State!