16 March 2012

Shirking Responsibility

When did we become a nation of wimps?

But Churchill never imagined a government that would add 10,000 year after year. That's what we have in America. We have 160,000 pages of rules from the feds alone. States and localities have probably doubled that. We have so many rules that legal specialists can't keep up. Criminal lawyers call the rules "incomprehensible." They are. They are also "uncountable." Congress has created so many criminal offenses that the American Bar Association says it would be futile to even attempt to estimate the total.

I believe it was P.J. O’Rourke who once observed that there is really only one freedom—the freedom to do whatever you please—and with that freedom comes the responsibility to live with the consequences.  The current loss of freedom now means the absence of responsibility.  If you are bound to live by someone else’s rules, than someone else will have to take responsibility for your actions.

There is some comfort in being stifled in this manner.  You never have to think for yourself, for starters.  In addition, if anything you do goes bad, you never have to take the heat for it.  Since humans are rather risk-averse, it makes sense that they would trade freedom for irresponsibility.  Sure, you may not be able to make independent decisions, but at least you don’t have to answer for yourself if anything goes bad.

As Philip K. Howard has observed, the main reason why regulations have become so detailed is to minimize, and possibly eliminate, the amount of human error in society.  Unfortunately, the only real way to reduce and/or eliminate human error is to reduce or eliminate its source:  humans.  Mistakes are a part of life, and no amount of regulation will change this.  The day-to-day situations in which we find ourselves can often be unique and unforeseeable, which means that there will never be an adequate level of regulation, simply because humans are limited creatures, unable to foresee the future with perfect clarity and judge accordingly.  As such, the legal system in which humans operate is one that needs to be flexible, understanding that humans occasionally find themselves in perplexing and impossible situations. They should have freedom to act, and they should take responsibility for their actions.

Of course, proposing a system wherein people have more responsibility, even if it means having more freedom, is politically suicidal because in this day and age, most people are simply too risk averse.  For many, security is still preferable to freedom.  As Ben Franklin once noted, those who would trade freedom for security will wind up having neither.  This is still the case today, for while our regulatory agencies seek to use regulations to eliminate human error, they can never essentially do so without eliminating humans.  Perhaps this explains the left’s genocidal bent.

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