Thursday, September 13, 2007

When the Self Abdicates Responsibility

A silly topic, perhaps, but what's the proper role of government in the food choices of its citizens?

I found this article interesting, and it got me to thinking (pardon the delay in posting).

For that matter, when one weighs the societal costs of brain injuries, are helmet laws a good thing, after all? Anecdotally, I am rather risk-averse when it comes to my health. I have also never ridden a motorcycle. In a candid self-appraisal, I am an aggressive insurer. I like to mitigate my risks; I probably over-insure.

Is it fair to say that bikers, accepting different degrees of risk, are less likely to insure as aggressively? I'd be interested in thoughts from the readership.

I happen to know 5 different entrepreneurs (none of whom know each other) that are bikers. The risk profile seems to be consistent: entrepreneurs are risk-takers, and getting on a motorcycle - or flying a plane, for that matter - involves accepting a certain amount of risk. Yet, I have no evidence to draw a connection between risk-taking and the costs to society for coming up short on the risks one takes. It simply seems intuitive: if you're a risk taker, and you take certain types of risks, sometimes you're going to come out ahead and sometimes, well, the house takes your money.

I think the point, at last, is that government should be silent on these issues to the extent that a person's choices aren't infringing on the liberty of others. There's an intersection where a person's lack of self-government meets up with the rights of others who are affected by this lack of self-government. A good example of this is the biker who doesn't have health insurance. If he/she gets in an accident, they will get the treatment they need; you and I will bear the cost.

As long as people aren't self-governing to a reasonable degree, there's going to be a push for external government to step in and fill the role that properly belongs to the self. I've long thought that "the government" has no business in telling people what to eat. Or if they can smoke. Or if they should wear a helmet. Acknowledging of course that if people were self-governing we wouldn't have to worry about this problem, we must also admit that the urge to enforce restraint through external government when the individual abdicates his/her responsibility is a natural reaction. I'm not yet ready to endorse it, even if I understand it.

And interesting to me is this: if our Founders could see the "issues" that occupy the public space, how do you think they'd react?


D.Roman said...

Great article, I absolutely believe the government has no place choosing what food we can eat like New York City has done. It is such a slippery slope you know that it will set a precedent to take away more and more rights the government deems too dangerous.

I just noticed that you added us to Blogs You Recommend. That is truly an honor considering the blogs you have on the list already. Thank you!

Michael Tams said...


Thanks for the comments. You've got a good blog, my friend.


Tanstaafl said...

It is no accident that government no longer does what it should (national defense) and intrudes ever more where it shouldn't (personal life choices, like diet, retirement savings, or healthcare).

These problems are related. Our government has morphed, is malfunctioning, and isn't working as it should. It needs a reboot. It needs a very thorough house-cleaning.

Michael Tams said...


Thanks for the comments. For the record, I think the writers here would all agree.

"How?" became the basis for most of our conversations. I'd be interested on your thoughts about the prescriptive nature of balanced government and how a platform based on it could correct what is wrong.


Tanstaafl said...

We can start by removing from office, democratically of course, anyone responsible for the immigration invasion or who has supported illegal aliens in any way.

The courts present a bigger problem as many of the justices cannot be reached democratically. Something along the lines of FDR's "pack the court" threats might work. Undoing their distortions of the Constitution could be accomplished by Auster's recently proposed amendment.

None of this is likely to ever happen. The media holds too firm a grip. Too many people remain brainwashed. It will take one or more real catastrophes to wake up enough people, and by then it will be too late to do things the polite way.

Michael Tams said...


I hope you're wrong, but I'd guess you're right.