Sunday, December 17, 2006

We're sorry.... but the answer is NO....

If I were ever stuck in a place like Mt Hood, while I would want no expense spared in an effort to rescue me, society ought not be spending the time and money it is trying to find the three climbers who have been missing for close to a week...

There is - and ought to be - a limit on just how much society ought to do to rescue someone from danger... and especially so when the individual is responsible for having put himself in the dangerous situation in the first place.

Nobody forced those three guys to go climbing Mt Hood; they freely and voluntarily chose to partake of a dangerous activity. Nor were these three people just minding their own business, going about their days, when disaster hit, and as such, in my view, they waived any expectation that society would do much of anything to rescue them in the event their outing turned nasty. Just as I was told as a kid, "you made the mess, you deal with it", the authorities should have quietly - but firmly - told the families that we were not going to do a whole heck of a lot to save their loved ones from their self-inflicted troubles.

Instead, the authorities have opened up the checkbook and started spending a whole lot of money that could have and should have been put to better uses, uses that would have benefitted a whole lot more people than the three climbers. I don't know what the final tab will be, but I'd bet it will be in the millions of dollars.

That's money that can't be used on education, money that can't be used to build roads and better protect our borders. It's money that can't be given back to society as tax cuts. It's money that is being spent to save three people from the consequences of their freely made choice to go do something dangerous like climbing mountains at this time of year.

Looking beyond this specific incidents, you can see that much of the financial and social problems we face as a country are a direct consequence of society refusing to force people to deal with the consequences of their choices.

People smoke, society pays for the medical treatment they need. People overeat and don't exercise, society pays for the medical treatment they need. People drive without seatbelts and without insurance, society picks up the tab for nursing them back to health. People have kids without having the financial resources and family structure one needs to properly raise kids, society rushes in to help. People get fired for incompetence, society pays them while they don't work. People choose to live in flood plains, or in cities that lie below sea level or near quake fault lines, society pays for rebuilding their homes.

The result of this is not only the financial burden of hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars that society has to shoulder paying to clean up all of these self-inflicted but also the debilitating effects of having to be around so many people who are incapable of accepting responsibility for the consequences of their own decisions.

When and why did we as a society get to the point where we no longer look to ourselves and our families to help us get through bad times in general and in particular the consequences of the bad decisions we make? There are a lot more people in this country who do the right thing than not; how and when did all these people decide it was such a good idea to support and take care of people who chose lifestyles and activities that are all but guaranteed to create a demand for public services and money?

Look, I hope these three guys come out of this ok. It's just that I don't feel it's my responsibility to help them. The way I look at it, I - and society as a whole - have a limited amount of resources... and there are a whole lot more people who are a lot more deserving of our help than three guys who, in case I wasn't clear before, let me repeat, put themselves into this situation.

We need to start saying NO more often.