We’ve all been on these highway mazes. Millions of cars traveling back and forth, on and off, between lanes. It seems as though it is a catastrophe waiting to happen. As we travel on these highways, surrounded by vehicles, our own actions control much of our fate. If we fall asleep, fail to see the red light, or forget to check our mirrors, we could cause something very bad to happen – to ourself, the people close to us, or the people we have never even met. But we don’t have complete control over our fate while driving. We are always dependent, to some degree, on the actions of other people. If the person driving next to us is texting or drinking, our lives could be taken in an instant – regardless of how good of a driver we may be.
The highway mazes like the one pictured above work surprisingly well however. With such a potential for disaster, how is it that there is only about 1 fatality for every 100 million miles driven? Laws attempt to influence a person’s driving decisions by issuing penalties for harmful behavior, they can not actually decide where each car goes. If we were to attempt to regulate the motion of every single car in America, the resulting devastation would be far greater than the devastation caused now. This can be easily demonstrated by a quick game of Flight Control, where players attempt to guide planes to a runway without them all crashing into each other.
In some way, every one of us is trusting a system of choices by the people around us when we get behind the wheel of the car. Why? Because it’s the best system we have. Sure, it is not without problems. There are collisions and deaths every day as a result of mistakes and poor choices. Unfortunately, there is no way to reach a “perfectly safe highway system”. No matter how hard we try, we will never be able to eliminate collisions.
I think the highway illustration carries great similarities to other areas of our country. In education, we’ve seen government spending triple over the last 40 years – and yet, barely any improvement in scores. The fact remains that the federal government is not good at planning the personal educations of 70 million students. More “accidents” happen when regulations and qualifications consume the time that school administrators and teachers could be using to teach students. Quite honestly, the people who know each student’s struggles are best equipped to solve them. Again, like the highway, this doesn’t mean that all students will do well in school without “crashing”. A certain part of the responsibility lies with their individual work ethic. Some responsibility may lie with the family atmosphere. But decentralized education is the best type of system we can get.
The analogy can be extended to healthcare as well. The new healthcare law creates commissions to decide whether care is “effective” or “useful”. The law creates agencies to determine if insurance policies are “too expensive” or “not comprehensive enough” for selling to other people. But it misses the point that every person is different. What my doctor recommends to me could be vastly different from what he recommends to you for the same problem. By trying to find an agreeable solution for “the common good”, the government strips trust from doctor’s decision-making and assumes the responsibility of all the healthcare decisions in the country. Because there is no possible way to decide how to treat everyone effectively based on a set of numbers and files, the result is that the quality of care decreases. Personal relationships and observations still remain the best way to analyze symptoms and discover cures for illnesses.
If you take a moment to think about it, you will be able to find many other applicable examples of the “highway maze analogy”. The bottom line remains: the best system we have to prevent chaos and spur economic growth is a system of individual responsibility in which each person makes the decisions most beneficial to themselves, and by doing so, helps society. Government’s role is to hold accountable those who show a disregard for human life by breaking the laws or intentionally harming others.
This system of choices takes power away from one person or group, and gives it to all the people. Isn’t that what our founders envisioned when they stood up for their freedom in 1776?