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From the Track

Is it the job of the federal government to remove all risk?

Kip Hamilton

(Dec, 2011) Is it the job of the federal government to remove all risk from the lives of its citizens?

I think there are many who would say this is true. The government has plenty of money and lots of smart people and it says somewhere that they are responsible for the general welfare of the people, right?

It seems like over the years, the vast numbers of health and safety regulations imposed by our central government have been meant to remove all risk from our lives. This being patently impossible, the rules have succeeded instead in removing all sense of personal responsibility from both adults and children. This is especially dangerous in our schools where the foundations of the young lives are laid. Lives run 100% according to a rulebook have no room for personal decisions. This quashes independence of spirit, curiosity, grit, independence of thought: precisely those qualities which proper schooling should promote.

This sheep-like attitude is so pervasive now that it has seeped into every corner of our society. One need look no farther than the city of New Orleans in the days surrounding the landfall of hurricane Katrina. We heard on the weather forecasts for a full five days prior to the strike of the storm that it was going to be a direct hit on New Orleans and that it was going to be an epic storm, capable of horrific damage.

Yet, what did a great percentage of the population do? Nothing. That is, nothing on their own. They dutifully did what they were told and descended by the thousands to the stadium to be inadequately, incompetently and unsafely warehoused for the duration. They had been so conditioned by the powers that controlled them that they completely abdicated their personal responsibility for their own individual survival and that of their loved ones. They waited, tragically in many cases, for someone else to tell them what to do. They traded their individual liberty for the false promise that "someone" would protect them from the risks the historic storm posed.

We should bear in mind that we are all at risk all the time, whatever we do, even if we stay at home. As the sovereign individuals that our forefathers intended, we are free to accept risks when we consider that by doing so, something worthwhile is achieved. We go rock-climbing or sailing or smoke because we consider the pleasure worth the risk. We take jobs as airline pilots or soldiers, or become missionaries in faraway places, because we consider the pay, or the interest of the job, or the benefit it brings others, makes the risk worthwhile.

By accepting the risks, we enable ourselves and others to lead a fuller life. But, the other side of that coin is along with the accepting of the risks comes the weight of having to also accept the responsibility for the decision. If it goes well, you benefit. If not, itís your fault. You learn from your mistake and try to not to do it again.

It is for this very reason that it is imperative that the government should not interfere with the risk-taking that businesses must do to be successful. If a business is based on a mediocre model, it must be allowed to fail. If a business is successful, then those who had the vision and took the risks should be rewarded. If for no other reason so that others with similar visions will have the confidence and inspiration to also risk everything for their dream. Every great advancement in our history was the result of an uncertainty that was evaluated and overcome. Risk is not inherently a bad thing. It makes us learn what we do not know; to see beyond what we can see. Overcoming risk is the very essence of being free.

In a letter from the Pennsylvania General Assembly to the Governor of Pennsylvania dated November 11, 1755, the assemblymen conveyed exactly this thought, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Ben Franklin was known to repeat this concept, as well.

Our countryís founders had fought and struggled so single-mindedly to be free from the oppression of the British monarch that they appreciated how precious and fragile their new-found liberty was. They had fought for their freedom and realized that they might have to again at some point to retain it.

The patriot Samuel Adams (prior to lending his name to the brewery) wisely cautioned us,

"In a state of tranquility, wealth, and luxury, our descendants would forget the arts of war and the noble activity and zeal which made their ancestors invincible. Every art of corruption would be employed to loosen the bond of union which renders our resistance formidable. When the spirit of liberty, which now animates our hearts and gives success to our arms, is extinct, our numbers will accelerate our ruin and render us easier victims to tyranny."

How insightful was this? Over 200 years ago, the inspired Mr. Adams envisioned what we are struggling with today. He realized that there might come a time when corrupt and deceitful tactics would be used to pit one citizen against another in an attempt to destroy the union which makes us so strong and that is was the "spirit of liberty" alive and vibrant in the hearts of its patriots which would keep us from tyranny.

We must always be ready to boldly follow Sam Adamsí counsel and not be afraid to take whatever risks are necessary to defend and preserve our liberty.

Read other articles by Kip Hamilton