Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Safety and Freedom

When a child takes their first steps, they may fall a few times in the process.  This is natural.  The child discovers that there are many rewards to being mobile.  As the child grows older there are many times when they will want to cling to their parents instead of trying new things.  It may be going to school, or staying the night at grandma’s house for the first time.  Slowly but surely, the child grows up and relies less and less on their parents, longing for more freedom.

This freedom is not without its risks.  Some parents choose to force their children into the world without truly equipping them to handle it.  Others want to smother their children in order to protect them from the cruelness in the world.

The fact is that throughout life we are constantly stepping out of our comfort zone and taking risks.  Usually, we find that it was worth the risk – even if we fail.  That is because trying something can have its own rewards, and experiences.

What is great and so critically important to this is making the choice of how much risk to take.  If we did not have the ability to make the choice, we would be insulated from the risk but would miss out on the opportunity to experience something good, maybe even something great.

By now those of you reading this have thought of times in your own lives where you stepped out, took a chance, and had success or, at least, a positive failure – one where you wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

If the majority of people understand this concept, and I believe that we all do, then why do people continue to want to impose restrictions on others to ensure their safety?  Take any headline of the day – take your pick.  Lets see, in the past few years we have had questions about the banking industry, health insurance, oh – here is one – product recalls.

A relative of mine was on the prescription medicine Vioxx for severe back pain related to a previous on the job injury.  This medicine had been the only thing that allowed him to manage the pain to the point where he could work and live up to his full potential.  Then the product was pulled because of and increased risk of heart problems and the pressure from the FDA (I know it was “voluntary”).  Now, from everything I can tell if it had stayed on the market, he would have been at a slightly higher risk for some heart attacks and would have needed to have more regular screenings.  Instead, he is back to not being able to manage his pain and has since switched careers.  It is a quality of life issue compared to the risk – one that people make when they decide whether or not to undergo a surgery.  This is a small example, but people were cheering for it when it was pulled and furious with the drug companies for them to dare allow such a product on the market – not to mention the vulture lawyers swooping in for the kill (note: not all lawyers are vultures, but there are a lot of them).  Why not allow people the choice?

It is such a simple case, and may not be a perfect example, but the question can be posed of just about any headline involved these days.  Why do people not have the choice?  Whether it is from intrusive legislation or government trying to step up increased social pressure of some action or speech being “taboo”, it all amounts to a shrinking of our freedom.

Trading freedom for safety is not an option – it is not a fair trade.  It is a slowly leaking bucket… it may be not much to worry about at first, but when the bucket is empty we will be crying out for even a little taste of freedom.  In a county that is the “Land of the Free and the home of the Brave” I think that we can find our bravery to stand up and keep our freedom – and preserve that greatest right of all… the right to fail – to make mistakes—and to learn from them that we might be a better person tomorrow.