Risky Business

diver

I don’t understand the rules about taking risks. They just don’t seem to make sense to me. Some things that are very dangerous, that could get you killed, are fine. Other things that are no more than a mild risk are illegal. The rules of risk seem random.

mountainAmericans are free to engage in lots of high risk behaviors. We can climb mountains, race cars at more than 200 mph, sky dive, run with the bulls, ride bulls, cliff dive, surf the big waves, hang glide, parasail, scuba dive, sail alone around the world, bungee jump, cage fight, or handle poisonous snakes.

People are allowed to do the most bizarre things. Have you ever seen David images7GHVCKXIBlaine bite a chunk out of a glass, chew it up and swallow it? I couldn’t help but notice that no SWAT team showed up and hauled his ass off to jail for eating glass, even though common sense would tell you that’s not good. But no, that’s considered entertainment.

You can do any of these things without the government trying to stop you or punish you.

Other things, not so much.

images0LQVPVSVIf you’re caught not wearing your seat belt in your car, you can get a ticket. In many states, if you ride your motorcycle without a helmet, you get cited. In 21 states there is some requirement to imagesWJZHVDFVwear a helmet to ride a bicycle.

Our leaders have decided these activities are too dangerous to be left to common sense. I guess common sense isn’t that common.

Is not strapping yourself into your car equal to the danger of scaling Mt. Everest? No way, not even close. Should you get a ticket for the low risk act of jaywalking, but not for diving off a cliff? Illogical, I’m sure the late Mr. Spock would agree.

There are other, less obvious risks the government ignores like smoking, drinking, gambling, football, and convertibles. Their reasoning on these things, though they won’t admit it, is that you have a right to do them even though they may be harmful, because big money is being generated by them. This makes me wonder if heroin would be legal if big business got behind it and you didn’t do it within 50 feet of the entrance to a building. But it’s clear that the money motive plays a role in what risks are allowed.

Like Nixon, let me make one thing perfectly clear. I’m not talking about children or the mentally challenged. I’m not talking about acts that could have consequences for others, like driving drunk. But if you are a mentally competent adult, shouldn’t it be up to you to decide what risks you take? What right does the government have to decide for you? Isn’t risk taking part of the pursuit of happiness?

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. You may have heard that famous quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. I can think of no more foolish consistency than the way politicians treat with the issue of allowed risks. If Emerson is right, their brains are tiny.

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