Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Right to be Fools

Overprotective parents who insist on making all the decisions for their children merely ensure that their kids are unprepared for making wise decisions as adults.

Similarly, a nation that infantilizes its population, by having its Government start making all of the "hard" decisions for its people to keep them from making unwise choices, only ensures that within a generation or two it will be populated largely by nitwits --- of the same caliber as those who will thereafter be making all of the Government's decisions.

In a free society, it's not the Government's job to run our lives, determine how much money we should have, or to determine what kind of culture we have. In a free society, if the citizens insist on being fools --- or choose to value greed over civic-mindedness, selfishness over cooperation, or trivialities over substance --- there's nothing the Government can or should do to stop them. Liberty gives us the right to be foolish as well as wise...and in a free society, learning to tell the difference is part of what gives life its meaning.

On the other hand, if we want to see what it looks like to have a Government in charge of determining income levels --- or making people who "have too much" give their excess away --- or deciding how its citizens should run their own lives --- we saw quite a lot of that in the 20th Century. As I recall, it didn't turn out too well.

JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Here's a comment from a parent who has recently suffered through the ordeal of dealing with the inflexibility of the public school system (in Fairfax, Virginia). I completely hear you about letting kids learn through their mistakes, but our society has come up with some absurd rules that disproportionately penalize kids, such that it's really difficult to stand by and watch them learn this way. In our barbaric school system, if a student has 3 unexcused absences, his grades automatically turn into F's, no matter what the quality of their work. 3 "tardies" count as an absence. To make matters worse, the schools start at 7:10 am, despite the fact that this is in diametric opposition to the circadian rhythms of adolescents. Moreover, our fool principal refused to accept medical excuses from their psychiatrist (my kids both have clinical depression), claiming that a psychiatrist isn't a "real doctor". The result of all this was that my kids, who are extremely bright, were completely failed by the school system. My son dropped out. He is now in a fully funded PhD program in computer science at Georgetown University. My daughter was shunted to an "alternative school", for which she had to board a bus at 6 am (some solution, huh?). She is also doing well in college now. The bottom line is that the only reason this school system looks so good on paper is that they get rid of any students with any problems. Anyway, I agree with you about the importance of letting kids learn how to make decisions and cope. But this has to start with a society that doesn't throw them away for the slightest misstep. Just my 2 cents worth (yikes, when did they take the cents sign off my keyboard?).