Risk, Reward, and the Coronavirus

April 6, 2020


One of the great things about living in a free society is that we have the freedom to make decisions for our own lives and that freedom can extend up to the point that we infringe on the rights of another person in a manner that makes it unavoidable for them. Without trying to turn this into a legal debate my point is this - if a person is making a speech on the corner that is offensive to me, I have the ability to go a different way or leave the area. I have no more of a right to that corner than he does so I can choose to leave.

Because of this liberty that we have in the United States, we have the freedom to make “risk vs. reward” decisions every day. In other words, millions of people have chosen to live in California despite the fact that there is a higher likelihood that their home could be destroyed by an earthquake. But many times, without thinking about it in risk and reward terms, they decide that it is a relatively low risk and the benefit of the weather, beaches or proximity of family outweighs that risk. The same could be said for the eastern coast with the risk of hurricanes, or the Midwest with tornadoes. In choosing where we want to live and how much risk we are willing to accept, we have the freedom to choose.

The same could be said for our daily routine. We make daily choices about whether to leave the house or stay inside. If we leave the house and drive, we run the risk of being one of the 100 people that will die that day in automobile accidents. If we interact with people, we run the risk of being one of the 50,000 people that will die from influenza this year. If someone chooses to overeat and not exercise, they endanger themselves in becoming one of the 83,000 people that die from diabetes every year. If one chooses to drink alcohol, the risk of being one of the 230 people that die every day from alcohol-related deaths increases.

These decisions are made every day yet we have never shut down the country and told people that they are no longer able to make these decisions. The argument is that we are putting other people in danger, but again, go out for a drive and observe how many times drivers put other people at risk in the way that they drive, yet millions get out on the roads because the reward of earning a paycheck, buying food, or going on a road trip outweigh the risks.

Death is all around us, and just because people are posting videos of themselves in ICU pleading for people to stay indoors, it doesn’t make their suffering any worse than the suffering that someone in ICU from a car accident or the flu. We need to decide whether we want to continue to have the freedom to do our own risk vs. reward analysis or if we want to give that over to the government.

Some might argue that those who choose to go out are putting others at risk. This may be true in some cases, but it is no different than any other day. Someone who goes to work or sends their children to school with the flu put their peers in danger, yet we don’t shut everything down for that. So I guess the thing that I am struggling with now is that the free citizens of the US have now said, “We are unable to make these types of decisions.”

If this is the new norm, are you willing to give up your car for the sake of the 37,000? Are you willing to stay indoors every flu season for the 50,000? Are you willing to give up your beer, wine or spirits for the sake of the 88,000? Are you willing to give up your cigarettes for the sake of the 480,000 each year that die from the effects of smoking?

I say, “No.” I have enjoyed the freedom to make life choices. However, I also say that what we are really lacking in our country are wisdom and morality. We have lost the desire to do things and make decisions based on what is better for the other person. We have lost the wisdom to consider outcomes and make decisions based on facts and truth rather than emotion. We have chosen to refer to our elected representatives as leaders, rather than what they truly are: representatives of the people. So now we place all of these decisions in their hands and expect them to tell us what is in our best interest.

What we have chosen is to give up on the idea of liberty, freedom, and responsibility, and chosen to be wards of the state.

By: Jon Williamson

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