Happiness and the pursuit thereof - Phil's Rambling Rants
Happiness and the pursuit thereof|
Most people who are worth talking to at all will agree that anything which doesn't do harm should be allowed. The problem is that there is nothing we can do which can't be construed in some way as doing harm, or as causing some risk of harm. Nothing should be forbidden unless we can show that the harm it does is comparable to or worse than the harm done by limiting the freedom of the person who wants to do it. And nothing can be done without some element of risk, and every thing anyone does causes some risk of harm to others, so no activity should be restricted on the basis of the the risk it poses unless the actual expected harm, the way the person actually wants to do it, is greater than the expected harm from other activities that we routinely allow. Requiring people to assume financial responsibility for the residual risk is often no different from banning it outright.
I am not saying that we *should* find indirect and convoluted reasons why one person's actions are harmful to others'. I'm saying that people *do* think that way, and it's getting worse. Just for one example, every time the subject of motorcycle helmet laws comes up for debate, there are people who argue that the bikers not wearing helmets causes their (the arguers', not the bikers') insurance rates to be higher, and that that harm justifies taking away the bikers' freedom.
I'm not arguing that we *should* think this way; I'm in fact arguing exactly the opposite. But the way the world is right now, any time someone sees anything they don't like in their life, they look for someone else to blame it on, and every time they see someone else enjoying themselves, they look for an excuse to make them stop. And the more knowledge and understanding we gain about the complexity of the world, the more unexpected connections between one person's actions and another's well being we will discover. A few of those connections are strong enough that they really do justify limiting people's actions, but most do not, and because we've become more aware of the connections without becoming aware of the threat to freedom, we're rapidly losing our freedom.