Why People Should Make Their Own Decisions

In my last blog entry I gave my view that the purpose of government is:

We need government because it is in everybody’s best interest to have an institution that handles the situations where having everybody acting in their own best interest doesn’t work.

I then said I would use this next to discuss the role of government.  I decided now though that we need another step first.  The core assumption here is that by default it is better for people to make decisions for themselves instead of government making decisions for them.   This contrasts with Plato’s assumption in his republic that people are not capable of making their own decisions and require elite “philosopher-kings” to make decisions for them.  There are two three reasons why I think it is better for people to make their own decisions:

  • There are just too many decisions to be made for a few people to make these decisions well.  Millions of people make countless decisions.  Even if the elite are all extremely intelligent, superbly trained, and totally beneficent, they just don’t have the time to thoroughly understand and wisely decide every issue.  When conditions change, the experts most likely won’t be there to access the situation and determine what needs to be done.
  • Decisions tend to be better if the person making the decision is better off when the decision is good and worse off when the decision is bad.  If the decision maker is unaffected by the decision or only partially affected, the decision is most likely to be poor.  For example, if a bureaucrat turns down a health insurance claim to save money, he doesn’t suffer if the person dies as a result.
  • I believe in freedom.  We have the right to make the decisions that affect our own lives as long as we respect the same rights of other people to lead their own lives.  We may not always make good decisions.  We frequently don’t.  We should be able to make them for ourselves.

With this assumption better explained, I will in the next blog talk about the role of government.  Really I will.  I promise.

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