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Deciding not to decide is not a decision

Joshua Sebold
Staff Writer
12/2/2009


    It’s funny how people discuss altering their course as being something that will happen and should be taken seriously, while they seem to be OK with not thinking about their current situation or where it will take them.
    On the topic of global warming people often argue seriously that taking steps to avoid global warming would “hurt the economy” because it “costs money.”
    This argument seems to indicate that ignoring global warming wouldn’t cost money or hurt the economy, to assume stronger hurricanes, rising sea levels and other catastrophic climate changes wouldn’t impact our lives or economies in any way.
    To argue that you don’t believe in global warming would actually make more sense, or to say you do believe in it and have factored out the most likely economic impacts and are balancing them out and have decided it’s inevitable or there will be a smaller return on any anti-climate-change measures than the cost of doing them.
    But realistically that’s not what you hear when people talk about not wanting to do something.
    You don’t hear senators saying they’ve calculated everything out and $200,000 less in green technology would be the right number or that we should just enjoy life now because it’s too late to stop global warming or anything like that.
    People just point out that addressing the issue in any way would cost money and spending money is bad.
    This seems to be how people look at many big issues.
    They usually ignore their present course and focus on what they don’t like about the alternative instead of truly weighing the two.
    Similarly, people look at the idea of changing healthcare and are very bothered by the idea of “rationing care.”
    They say this as if they don’t know that we’re rationing care right now.
    M.I.T. economics professor Joseph Doyle recently conducted a study in which he found that people without health insurance who were taken to an emergency room after a car accident were 37 percent more likely to die than those with health insurance.
    That’s because we ration care.
    It’s not that people are afraid of rationing care or hurting the economy; it’s that it’s easier to deal with it if it “just happens” than if you have to actually sit down and make a decision on how best to handle these situations.
    Neither of these arguments I’ve made are intended to get people to support changing the current paths on global warming or healthcare, but to explain that many people argue issues without really arguing anything at all when you really listen to them.
    Both of the arguments I’ve mentioned here aren’t arguments to not do something; they’re arguments to not think about real choices.
    By focusing only on the negative aspects of one option and ignoring the negative aspects of the other option, our current path, we essentially avoid thinking about tough subjects.
    It’s simply easier for us to ignore the issues with our current way of life, because we don’t analyze them as closely as new options presented to us.
    Like a frog sitting in a pot that is slowly heating, we don’t notice our current situation will result in a bad outcome, but we certainly wouldn’t jump into a simmering pot right next to us that we can see has been hot the entire time.
    For some reason even if our pot becomes hotter than the other it’s still easier for us to see that the other looks unappealing than to assess it’s relative heat to the pot we’re in.
    Basically, as people we don’t like to make changes that we will regret.
    It’s much easier to live with our current path because we’re used to it, than to do something now that we will remember doing and regret five years from now.
    We don’t remember when we decided that our current healthcare system is fine or that global warming won’t be that bad, because there wasn’t an event which made us decide those things, so we don’t feel as bad about bringing ourselves here because it just kinda happened.
    An even more obvious example of this was presented to us when the federal government decided that an out-of-date fighter jet shouldn’t be produced anymore.
    People who lived in states where the jets were manufactured lamented people would lose their jobs if the jet weren’t made anymore.
    Although anyone losing a job is always sad, it seemed ridiculous that people would argue to spend money for no positive outcome other than to give people jobs.
    Obviously if you spent that money on something useful, it would also produce jobs. People didn’t think about the fact that someone else didn’t have a job because that money was being wasted; they just thought about the job that would be lost and argued to keep spending the money—to sit in the pot—because the reality of making a decision that had a negative aspect was too tough.
    Well now it’s time to be tough.
    Our country is going through a hard time, and we need to behave like adults and address real issues in a mature way by looking at both sides of every argument instead of just avoiding making tough decisions.
    I’m not asking for anyone to change his opinion on fighter jets, global warming or healthcare, but I’m asking you to actually examine uncomfortable decisions and make choices, not excuses.
    Hold people accountable when they make one-sided comments and arguments.
    Make our political discourse into an intelligent discussion, not a series of catch phrases.
    When your children ask you why you did or didn’t do something 15 years from now, you’re going to want to be able to tell them something more than “it was easier to do nothing” or “it was hard to make decisions about our economy or someone’s healthcare.”
    When we don’t make a decision it’s just the same as making one, even if it seems easier right now.
    Democracy is all about making your own decisions in life, but if nobody makes them and nobody considers important issues and we all just go along for the ride, then it simply doesn’t work.

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