Risky Business

“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.”

— Ray Bradbury
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

— Helen Keller

“Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting.”

— Karl Wallenda

“The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.”

— Goethe
“There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”

— William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

The former are some of my favorite quotes about taking risk. Recognition of risk as a part of living life is a concept as old as life itself. The philosophy that the greater the risk, the sweeter the reward is a colloquialism that while not a guarantee, is one that is generally accepted to be accurate. Businesses evaluate decisions on a “risk/reward” curve, and risk “premiums” are paid to compensate for the chance of loss.

Webster defines risk as:

The possibility of loss or injury: peril, someone or something that creates or suggests a hazard, a: the chance of loss or the perils to the subject matter of an insurance contract; also: the degree of probability of such loss b: a person or thing that is a specified hazard to an insurer c: an insurance hazard from a specified cause or source <war risk>, the chance that an investment (as a stock or commodity) will lose value.

When evaluated on a tactical level, risk is a negative concept – it implies the possibility of loss.

Individuals must deal with risk every minute of every day but where does the individual’s right to accept risk conflict with a government’s responsibility to protect that individual from risk? Does the government even have that responsibility? Is there an inverse relationship between the mitigation of risk and freedom?

What triggered this line of thought was this little tidbit that I saw on December 17th from the CBS affiliate in Baltimore with the eye catching title of: “Good Samaritans Face Fine After Rescuing Deer From Icy Water”.

They fought to save a life, and now they say they’ll fight the fine.

It all revolves around the rescue of a deer trapped in icy water Thursday night. Alex DeMetrick (reporter for the local affiliate -ed.) reports that good deed was rewarded with tickets.

Strangers banded together to pull a deer out of the freezing water of the Patapsco River on Thursday night.

“We seen (sic) the deer going under,” said Khalil Abusakran. “It couldn’t maintain.  It was starting to freeze, and it was really getting bad.”

Abusakran brought a raft, and Jim Hart joined him.

“We had oars and shovels to break the ice, for the deer to get out,” Abusakran said.

But in the excited aftermath of the rescue, a natural resources police officer on the scene wrote both men a ticket.

“And he didn’t say anything,” Jim Hart said. “We went in and out of the water numerous times.  He didn’t stop us at all.”

They say they were ticketed for not wearing life vests, although both are over the age for mandatory use of flotation devices.

“No, we didn’t have vests on, but we’re not 16 years old,” Abusakran said. “There were personal floating devices on the boat.”

The ticket itself doesn’t check off any specific violation, just a $90 fine.

They’ll fight it in court, as they fought for the deer.

The two men ticketed say they will fight the citations at the court hearing in Annapolis set for Feb. 18.

These are men who chose to accept the obvious and potential risks and were penalized for it. I think that it is unlikely that this fine will be upheld but it is instructive insight into the lines that we have now drawn. The government representative did nothing to mitigate the risk; he was just there to penalize the individuals for taking it.

When are we expected to accept the risks that are necessary and inherent in life? There was a time when risk assumption began when an individual reached the age of “majority”. “Majority”, in legal terms, is the threshold of adulthood as it is conceptualized and recognized or declared in law. It is the chronological moment (generally falling between the ages of 18 to 21) when a minor ceases to legally be considered a child and assumes control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over and for them.

Now it seems that we are never expected to accept risk.

One of the hallmarks of modern “progressivism” is the idea that somehow the mere implementation of “progressive” collectivist policies will alleviate risk to some group. Their vision is that a world without risk prevents persecution or oppression of people who won’t accept risk by those who do. Recalling our earlier assertion of risk vs. reward, they believe that the people who accept the greater risk are rewarded disproportionally. “Progressives” believe in “zero sum” games – that one cannot succeed unless they diminish another. When one wins, that win comes at the expense of another – and that isn’t “fair”.

This concept fits well in the ethos of those who are true believers in “progressivism” as well as those who are simply assuaging guilt of some sort or seek a feeling of self importance or smug superiority over their fellow citizens. In a society that was founded on self reliance, self determination, independence and freedom where opportunities are equal, how do you keep a movement like this alive?

Here’s how – you manufacture some sort of risk, persecution or oppression. You create the concept that there are too many risks for the individual to bear so the government must intervene to “protect” you from complexities that you can’t possibly comprehend, understand or prepare for as an individual…all the while perpetuating those same complexities. You play off social and economic class against each other. You convince the citizenry that there are crises so big that all must sacrifice some of their freedoms and treasure to resolve. You create the concept of something being “too big to fail”.

Totalitarian movements always feature this type of monstrous risk/class envy proposition in order to stay alive. They sell their intrusion into private life and control over the citizens as the removal of risk. They tell you that you aren’t responsible for yourself because you just aren’t capable of understanding. The excuse for the housing crisis isn’t that policies lead to loans to people who didn’t have the capacity to repay them; it was that the evil mortgage companies took advantage of people who didn’t understand the complex paperwork. The reason for investment collapses was that the investor couldn’t possibly understand the intricacies of credit default swaps or derivatives. You can’t possibly plan for your retirement or manage your own eating habits or health.

It is actually pretty demeaning and offensive when you think about it…but people are buying this lie about themselves. It is unbelievable.

Please don’t believe it, don’t buy into this lie that is “too big to fail” – it is the same as a mafia protection racket. If you don’t pay, they will eventually break your kneecaps. Freedom means accepting and defeating the risks of life, not having collective government sand off the rough edges for us. Mark Twain spoke of it thusly:

“Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

Talk Amongst Yourselves:

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