The Problem

At every level of public action, law stands in the way of responsibility and common sense. THE SOLUTION »

Loss of Personal Responsibility

We have lost the ability to make sensible choices.  Instead of holding each other accountable when something goes wrong, we try to structure society to guarantee that nothing bad ever happens.  We replace human choices with legal prescriptions.  We have turned “discretion” into a dirty word.

This is not an ideological point.  If the president can’t approve a green infrastructure project, then what kind of voice do we have as citizens?  If the school principal lacks authority to balance the demands of one student against the needs of other students, then what value is there in the point of view of a parent or teacher?

Of course, discretion carries risks.  We all know that some people abuse their authority.  But that doesn’t mean that we should structure society so that no one ever gets to make a decision.  It may be true that power corrupts.  But powerlessness also corrupts. . 

The current legal order doesn’t honor the individuality of human accomplishment.  We are so focused on avoiding bad values that we have taken away people’s authority to assert good values.  Freedom is not supposed to be a legal labyrinth, where each decision is like picking the right answer on a multiple-choice test.  That is contrary to the American can-do spirit.