Down the Rabbit Hole

A recurring theme was running through my head this morning during my walk with the dog. How does a person decide which laws are reasonable and helpful and should be followed and which laws trample on their rights?

The first example that came to mind was related to a couple of car chase news stories I read earlier. Why do some people think having a speed limit is a good idea but preventing people from congregating on beaches during a pandemic is tyranny? Both are done in the spirit of minimizing the risk to people. Speed limits are intended to limit the number of accidents (which causes injury and death) just like social distancing minimizes the risk of getting the virus (which causes sickness and death).

The logical answer would seem to be that acceptable laws do more good than bad. So how we do find that out for sure? Research surely will work, right? Congregate the data and see what the stats are. Except these days our research resources are endless and conflicting. Forget the fact that we tend to believe sources that already prove our opinion. Even if you have no opinion, or really, really want a correct answer, trying to figure out which “experts” to believe can leave you confused and frustrated.

Even if pursuing a fact-driven decision, individual opinion is going to sway your bottom line. Say law #1 has data proving (yes, let’s do the unimaginable and pretend there is 0% possibility that this data is faulty) that when the law is followed there are 51% fewer fatalities than when not followed. Data shows that law #2 only results in 49% fewer deaths. Do you decide that #1 is doing the job it needs to do, so keep it, and #2 is not? Are both saving enough lives to be worth it to you? Neither? How you decide that is quite possibly going to be different than the next person.

Here’s another example… On second thought, I’ve decided I’m not going to do that. Because there’s another factor in our decision-making process: trigger issues. Some topics are so controversial and/or so personal that just mentioning them—go ahead, I bet you can think of at least one, just don’t say it out loud—just mentioning them, I say, will sidetrack this whole conversation and take us down a different tunnel that is long and arduous and dark and, ugh, just so endless.

Not that the rabbit hole I tripped into this morning has a bottom to it. Maybe it does. Maybe you have found an answer, but does that mean everyone else has? And if they have, is their answer the same as yours?

Anarchists exist that are in favor of letting chaos reign. Thankfully, most of us don’t think chaos sounds like a very pleasant place to live. Finding balance is the hard part. Letting other people pick their own tipping point is even harder. Laws, whether chiseled in stone like the Constitution, or temporary injunctions like the stay-at-home executive orders, are humanity’s attempt to maintain that balance, and results in a lot of swaying and side-stepping just like a tightrope walker adjusting their footing or pole position while they tiptoe to the other side. And to mix metaphors, one size does not fit all.

How do I end a musing like this long spiral into confusion? Maybe all I can do is hope—wish is probably a better word, hope gives humans a little more credit than I’m feeling we deserve right now—that we will keep our heads in the game at least as often as we do our hearts. While the diversity of our individualities results in a lot of divisive pushing and pulling, our contrasts are one way to keep civilization from losing its balance and falling into a hole that we will never, ever be able to get out of.

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