This week I am following up on my post “You Are Killing Me!“
As I turn right out of my driveway, and approach the end of the block, there is a large red octagonal sign which displays the letters “STOP”. If I turn right at that point and proceed another block, there is an intersection with another road. There is a light suspended above the center of the road that cycles between the colours of Green, Yellow, and Red. Proceeding across the intersecting road I immediately see a rectangular sign that displays the word “MAXIMUM”, the number “40”, and a series of symbols “km/h”. Just past the third sign is the entrance to my children’s elementary school.
We would of course recognize these as a stop sign, a traffic light, and a speed limit sign. The third might require a little translation for some, as might the first if I lived one province to the east.
What these signs do illustrate is the relationships between rights, risks, and responsibilities.
The signs are there because of competing rights. What do I mean by that?
Going way, way back, I remember my grade 11 Law course teacher, Mr. Thorne, teaching us about rights. “In general”, he said, “you have the right to do whatever you want. And that right ends and the end of someone else’s nose.”
That comment has stuck with me through this 40 years. I have the right to do whatever I want until it impacts someone else. At that point my freedom to enjoy that right absolutely, ends.
The problem comes when my right to do something conflicts with your right to do something.This is known as “competing rights.”
Let us imagine for a moment that the signs and traffic light did not exist.
Let us also assume for the moment that driving a car is a right. (We will avoid the right versus privilege debate for now, although that ties into the discussion.)
You have the right to drive your car. You need it to get to work.
My child has the right to an education. He does not have a car and so he walks. He has the right to arrive at his school alive.
We have a potential collision of rights at that intersection, not to mention a potential collision of child with car.
The right of the driver to drive to work unencumbered comes in conflict with the right of the child to arrive at school alive.
This is where the concept of “the greater good” comes in. When you have conflicting rights, they have to be weighed up against each other to determine which is of higher value.
In this case here, it was long ago determined that the driver’s right is superseded by the child’s right, and so regulations and restrictions were put into place to mitigate the risk that the child’s rights might be breached.
Libby Jones wrote this creative post back in May. You can see how it start to tie back into last week’s post.
“This is a new invention, it’s called a traffic light. When it’s green, you can drive through it. When it’s red, you have to stop and wait for it to turn green.”
“Sounds like the government thinks it knows more than I do about how to drive my own car!”
“Well, people are dying in intersections. At a very sad rate. And getting hurt pretty badly, too. And this is something pretty easy we can all do together to keep people from dying and getting hurt.”
“But I haven’t died in this intersection. And I actually don’t know anyone else who’s died here either. You sure people aren’t maybe, like, falling off their roofs and you’re just saying they died in this intersection? To make us scared so you can control us?”
“People are definitely dying in this very intersection. But just look at the light, and go when it’s green. Stop when it’s red. We’ll add a yellow one so you know when it’s about to turn red.”
“But if I have to stop when it’s red, I won’t get where I’m going as fast. Sounds like you’re infringing on my freedom. Sounds like you don’t want me to get to work to earn a living and you want me to rely on the government for everything.”
“That’s….no. No one wants that. Look, we know no one’s going to like stopping at the red light. It’s going to be a small inconvenience for everyone. But again, if we all do this perfectly, together, we can keep people from dying in this intersection.”
“Well if people are so scared of this intersection, maybe they should just walk! Leave the cars to those of us who don’t want to live in fear!”
“That’s the thing – many of the people dying *are* pedestrians.”
“Look, how about if someone wants to stop at the light they can, but if someone else doesn’t want to stop, they don’t have to. It should be my choice. This is a free country, you know.”
“Again, this will work if everyone does it together. Just one person doing whatever they want has the potential to kill other people.”
“Just one person doing whatever they want has the potential to kill other people.”
That is what I was getting at last week. The significant number for the spread of Covid-19 is the reproduction (R) value. In short it is the number of people on average that each infected person in turn infects. “The reproduction number is not fixed. Instead, it changes as our behaviour changes, or as immunity develops.” The number has to be below one to stop the increasing spread of the virus. In hindsight, here is what it looked like in the U.K. as measures were taken to control the virus. (Modelling courtesy of Mathematical modelers at the Imperial College of London.)
Clearly there were a number of actions taken over a short period of time that resulted in a dramatic drop in the R value. We can’t really judge the individaul results of each of those actions in this case as they were taken very hastily to combat a very bad situation.
Looking back at the discussion of rights: If your actions impact other people, including their right to life, then we have a competing right. In those circumstances, regulations are quite reasonable. We put in stop signs, and traffic lights, and speed limits to reduce deaths on the road. It is reasonable to do the same to reduce deaths due to Covid-19. Has there been overreach? Sure. The more we learn, the more we can get it right.
What about risk?
Justin made the comment last week:
… We fool ourselves to think we can control any of it. Covid makes the number of threats reach 1000+1. I check off several of the high-risk factors myself, so the number soars to 1007.
No one is killing anyone else…
This is where I disagree with Justin. Covid-19 does not have a fixed R value. It does not take us from 1000 to 1001. It rises and falls with our actions. The number of people dying from Covid-19 is totally controllable. Look at the graph from the U.K. above.
Those who ignore, skirt, or flaunt those regulations, are like those who run red lights, or speed through school zones, or might I add drive drunk. They increase the risk to those around them. They increase the deaths around them.
I have long felt that driving under the influence should warrant a much more severe penalty. It is like playing Russian Roulette every time you get behind the wheel. Maybe you won’t kill a pedestrian this time… or maybe you will.
I agree with Justin that I face risks every day. But I reject his contention that those risks are unavoidable and uncontrollable. The data shows that when it comes to Covid-19 that simply isn’t true.
And that brings me to my fourth word: Responsibility.
Being a member of a society involves responsibility. Being responsible to follow traffic guidelines and drive safely. Being responsible not to drive drunk. And doing your best to not spread Covid-19 to others.
My wife tells of one speaker she heard on a radio show who was commenting on a crowded Toronto park: “I would love to go to the park. But I have a nice back yard. So while I have every right to go to the park, there are others who don’t have a nice back yard, and I would like to give them the ability to enjoy the park without my extra presence.” This is acting responsibly. I would encourage us not only to obey the letter of the regulations at this time, but where we are able, to go above and beyond. There are lives (including mine) that depend upon it.
58 thoughts on “Rights, Risks, Regulations, and Responsibilities”
“AND YOU! CAN’T! MAKE! ME! NYAAAAAH!!!!!”
The Former Confederate States and Jesusland.
As well as the only car not being driven by a smartphone screen.
(txt txt txt txt txt txt txt txt txt…)
And it gets worse.
Another Fruit-cake for a Pastor-just what the world needs and yes I am being sarcastic!
Hug you said”Maybe it’s because of his Sacred Testosterone?
REAL Chrisitans (i.e. REAL MEN) Don’t Wear SISSY Masks?”
Another follower of Trump.-I wonder how Jesus fits into his world-view.
Another Fruit-cake for a Pastor-just what the world needs and yes I am being sarcastic!
And the country is full of this just now.
Maybe it’s because of his Sacred Testosterone?
REAL Chrisitans (i.e. REAL MEN) Don’t Wear SISSY Masks?
I grew up constantly getting pat-pat-patted on the head like that. It’s one of the most condescending putdowns in existence. Try that on me now and I’m liable to deck you on the spot. NEVER AGAIN!
(Of course, provoking your victim to lose it and deck you is a Manipulator’s way of turning the tables, making YOU the EVIL ONE, and playing the Poor Poor Innocent Victim. Just keep needling and teasing and needling and provoking over and over and over and over and over and over…)
Which slams head-to-head against “FREEDOM!!! I Gotta Be MEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!”
Yes. Back around March/April he started posting frequently on Facebook on why no one needs to wear a mask. Or at least everyone can make a reasonable decision on wearing masks but it should be personal. And if you disagreed, well he would metaphorically pat you on the head and tell you that you just didn’t understand.
That’s when I went to his blog and noticed the anti-science bent. And to be blunt, the mis-information spreading.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Hardening of the Attitudes?
General cracking up (as in a long slow drive round the bend like the John 3:16 Guy)?
I’ve long gotten the same vibe from Wade’s blog as from Calvary Chapel — the indefinable feeling of something just WRONG.
Nikola Tesla (intuitive genius, most innovative electrical engineer in history) attracts a LOT of crackpots.
What in the world is wrong with Wade Burleson? This seems so unlike him?
I am usually intentional to NOT spiritualize my posts.
I have written about what is on my mind. I want it to be in tune with what the Bible says, but not force my thoughts upon the Bible, or form them into some pithy “Biblical based” application.
If you want to see how this topic has put many (what I had thought of as logical well meaning) people into my category of selfish, check out Wade Burleson.
If you go back through his blog a month or so you’ll find conspiracy theories on Bill Gates, Nicolas Tesla (way out there on this one) and other things.
And on Facebook he keep going on and on about what HE doesn’t need to wear a mask and why no “reasonable” person needs to do so. We can all just be responsible adults. After all, the founding fathers would have rejected masks so we should also.
And when challenged he basically says, “just stay home and be safe if you disagree”.
This is especially ironic since cracking down on mail-in ballets will like mean fewer GOP votes (especially the older ones who don’t want to go to the polling place due to coronavirus).
The fact that you forgot about it illustrates that you are not controlled by the kind of compulsions that force a fundamentalist to always speak in religious language when making a moral appeal. That means you don’t have a problem just being a regular human being instead of a pious caricature. That’s a good thing.
When others started bringing up the scriptural verses, I kind of went “Oops, I kinda forgot that aspect of it.”
Not intentional on my part, but I am glad you liked it.
If we didn’t take any precautions against the virus, we’d be facing death rates that even red states would find unacceptable. The *only* rational way to get kids back into school is to nearly eliminate community transmission, which could be done in a matter of weeks if everyone simultaneously decided to behave like a grown-up, or in a couple of months otherwise. That’s the only way through this – we tried ignoring the problem and hoping it would go away, and look where it got us.
Mike, I’m glad you made your argument without reference to Scripture or the obligations of a Christian. You appealed to the values of our common humanity instead. That avoids the back-and-forth Scriptural proof-texting and Christian virtue one-upmanship that these kinds of discussion too easily become swamped in. If our common humanity isn’t enough to convince Christians to be responsible, no amount of theology or Scripture will be.
Also always remember: you are one of the crazy drivers.
That was an idea I tried to convey upon my daughter when teaching her to drive. I also told her, “Whenever you see ONE crazy act on the road, be prepared: there will be at least two others before the day is over.”
In other words, be EXTRA vigilant on the “crazy” days.
This. Exactly. And I’d add that a similar analogy could be made with bicyclists, and it may be worse because legally bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists but functionally and socially we are second-class citizens on the road and when we get hit there is often a blame-the-victim storyline. Rarely is a motorist brought to justice even when they are at fault.
It will take more than a legal change to get people to behave. It often takes a widespread social change. That happened with smoking and it could happen with other things as well. But right now, I just don’t see the potential for that kind of positive change.
Add to that Paul’s words in Phil 2 and it becomes even more ironic that Christians are the ones demanding their ‘rights’ the loudest. A friend posted a link to a YouTube video this morning by a pastor in California who is defying the mask ordinance and is ready to go to jail for the ’cause of Christ’ – they are going to open their building this week no matter what. I keep asking myself ‘when did the government asking us to do (temporarily) what Christ commanded us to do (always) become religious persecution?’ I think it’s pretty clear from the Sermon on the Mount that when we become followers of Christ OUR rights always take a backseat to the needs of others.
Perhaps if American evangelicals heard more preaching from Matthew, Mark, and Luke they’d act a little more like Jesus (or at least understand how we SHOULD act). Steve, the things you mentioned, though hard enough, don’t even include things like ‘love your enemies’ (you mean them Muslims, atheists, ANTIFA, and Democrats) – COME ON!. Jesus didn’t REALLY expect us to do that did he?
One good piece of advice my father gave me, almost 50 years ago, about driving was, “Drive like everyone else on the road is crazy.”
“It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.” – Murphy’s 11th Law
There has been found no non-arbitrary way to exclude people from the political process. Producing fewer fools is ostensibly the goal of a decent educational system. We are hamstrung by the curious notion that people become experts in education by virtue of becoming parents.
As far as driving I follow the principle of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Just yesterday, I got lectured about how COVID is an overblown HOAX so the Democrats teh Democrats the Democrats can steal the election my mail-ballot fraud. (And Take Away All Our Guns!)
“You must not forgive your brother seven times, but seventy times seventy”
“If someone takes your coat, give them your shirt too.”
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (said as the nails were being hammered home)
If there is wriggle room, it should probably fall towards the literal rather than allegorical side of interpretation.
Resources: You need none to pursue a case up to the insurance policy limits (the other driver’s liability limit or your own underinsured motorist limit). Lawyers routinely take these cases on a contingency fee basis, taking a percentage of the settlement or judgment. These aren’t sexy cases, so they don’t make the news, even when they go to trial, which they usually don’t, having settled first.
If you ever see someone advocating prohibiting contingency fees as “tort reform” what they really are trying to do is to restrict the legal system to the rich. Personal injury is one of the few areas of law that can actually benefit a poor person.
My grievance is not an excuse for voter suppression. But if you’re going to operate a half ton machine you’re damn well going to demonstrate expertise.
Sadly, such an approach will result in being really’d to death
What does “turn the other cheek” really mean? Sure, we should love our neighbor, but really, there has to be limits. One can’t really expect people to live that way all the time.
“””Add to this that we are commanded to love our neighbors. Favoring our personal convenience over our neighbors’ lives is hardly consistent with this.”””
It is the insistence of those who claim a right not to wear a mask that is causing the cascading restrictions of other rights that you mention (schooling, peace of mind, etc). Even taking the initial confusion into consideration, if mask wearing had become widespread once it’s efficacy was established, we’d be coming to an end of this mess rather than nearing the middle. Where are the curves bending worse in the US now? Where the mask wearing levels are lowest, and the skepticism towards experts is highest. This is not a coincidence.
The Gosepl of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation is a VERY Selfish Gospel.
And that’s with an entire country on lockdown and people living in isolation. Imagine if we hadn’t taken any measures…
> This isn’t actually true.
It is true. There have been sadly frequent pedestrian deaths in my ‘hood. And I assure you – essentially nothing happens.
You can make something happen, financially, if you are equipped to do so. The justice system does not step in to help, actively.
The local press [such that it is] will however cover the virtuous and tearful apology of the guilty party – before they get to walk away.
> In theory you can go after assets and garnish wages, but in practice this is difficult,
Both difficult and resource intensive.
> I can’t speak to the likely consequences criminally
They’re aren’t any. Or maybe a few months probation. Someone – in Michigan anyway- loosing their driver’s license is almost unheard of.
“In the midwest United States a motorist runs any given traffic signal on average every EIGHT MINUTES. And with essentially no consequence; even if they kill someone.”
This isn’t actually true. I can’t speak to the likely consequences criminally, but I work in personal injury law and can address the civil aspect. Run a stop sign and kill someone and I know which side of the resulting lawsuit I want to work on. The practical limitations are proving the facts, and (more importantly) how much insurance is available. The various states have legal minimum liability insurance coverage, but they are low: enough to cover a minor rear-end collision followed by a couple months of physical therapy, but absurdly inadequate for a wrongful death (even stipulating that any amount suffices for that). In theory you can go after assets and garnish wages, but in practice this is difficult, and probably trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. People with minimum policies don’t typically have any assets to speak of. The moral is look to your own policy, and its Underinsured Motorist provision. This is money well spent.
Add to this that we are commanded to love our neighbors. Favoring our personal convenience over our neighbors’ lives is hardly consistent with this.
> We choose to live with those risks – even though they can cause death.
More correctly: some people choose to live with those risks, many other have no choice but to do so.
> Too many changes from the experts as to what we should or should not do over the past few months.
Nah, I don’t buy it. I’d give it to you except that ask is ***SO SMALL***. There is no ask to do something particularly costly, it’s s ~$3M mask (if you can’t get one for free) for brief periods of time. Just do it.
When I go to some people’s homes they ask me to take my shoes off. Do I find that inconvenient? Yes. Have I ever once objected? No, because it is a trivial ask.
When one reads the words of Christ, one sees that Christians are called to sacrifice ourselves for those. This comes in many forms: Turning the Other Cheek, Sharing our wealth with others in need, Carrying our cross even when we don’t want to, show mercy to those who are suffering.
When I read the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matt. 25, what are the attributes of those who are welcomed by Christ?
American Christianity is all about “rights” but not “responsibly”.
We are our brother’s keeper.
Adam and Stephen,
I prefer the term “idiot-resistant”, as the Universe always conspires to produce more advanced idiots.
This of course ties into the fact that nothing is more dangerous than a resourceful idiot.
Isn’t the argument now about competing rights and which take precedent over others?
To the driving analogy – this has been worked out over a hundred years by society. And I doubt that any of us truly obey the letter of the regulations let alone go over and above for the safety of others. Speeding? check. Rolling stops? check. Proceeding thru a red at 3AM when no one is around? check. Inattentive driving due to eating, drinking, changing radio, looking at my phone? check. And following the rules perfectly does not completely eliminate safety risks from driving. Sometimes equipment fails. Sometimes people have medical emergencies. We choose to live with those risks – even though they can cause death.
Covid-19 is a new thing and the science is not yet all in. Too many changes from the experts as to what we should or should not do over the past few months.
How about the right of my child to an education? That has been greatly diminished due to certain mandates. Finishing school online this last spring was not as effective for almost all students. This loss of learning will negatively impact the lives of many.
What about the right of a friend of mine who suffers from depression? Not being able to go to church and get together with people has brought on suicidal thoughts. Should we as society do something different for her so that she lives? There is a risk that she will take her life.
What about the loss of jobs and the ability to find productive employment? At the least, the mandates have exacerbated the issue for many. Do those people have a right to work? Those that can’t find work now will likely find their earning potential to be negatively impacted for a long time.
How about peacefully protesting? Are crowds OK for that?
I’m sure there are more examples of competing rights.
Given all of these it doesn’t seem charitable to just boil it down to wear a mask or you are killing me. Similar to how we are watching the sausage making of science we are watching the sausage making of society figuring out how to prioritize the competing rights.
> No system of thought, action or governance is fool proof.
The point shouldn’t be to be “fool proof” but to produce fewer fools.
Many systems are demonstrably more successful at that later goal.
> It should be a lot harder to get a driver’s license
*OR*, more simply, MUCH EASIER to lose one.
When a driver’s license is the only thing accepted at most polling places, that attitude would probably get you a state Senate seat down here.
There is a feeling here in Red World that the virus only infects candy-a$$ed, Volt-driving, northeastern corridor lib’ruhls who catch a cold at the wrong pronoun being used and develop full blown Crohn’s at a Polack joke. It wouldn’t dare come aroun’ a two-fisted, red-blooded, Second-Amendment-exercising American patriot.
Hard news ’bout Mawmaw, though. She was a tough ol’ bird. Just not tough enough, I guess.
Mike B, a reasoned and reasonable analysis. What it doesn’t factor in are all the people who are not reasoned or reasonable. We must not underestimate the general level of ignorance and stupidity. No system of thought, action or governance is fool proof.
Concluding unscientific postscript (i.e., a rant):
It should be a lot harder to get a driver’s license. A LOT harder. The applicant should be subjected to a rigorous six- month boot type training camp. (The session on the turn indicator should last two weeks.)
Of course in the face of global climate change the car culture will have to disappear altogether but first things first.
“That’s a conversation that will bear no fruit.”
As Richard John Neuhaus said, sometimes we have to curse the darkness to remind ourselves that we are not supposed to be at home in it. And certainly my own words are not of much consequence – so I try to keep bringing Christ into the argument. But if they won’t listen even to Him, at least my hands are clean (Ezekiel 33).
How many people would have died if everyone had Justin’s approach about this deadly virus? I had someone-who I respected tell me in early March, 2020 that this Virus was no more deadly than the flu. There are over 160,000 deaths from this virus now, with no end in sight.
> driving under the influence is actually a badge of pride
> But if you go maskless, run red lights, spew racism, *and claim you are a
> Christian*, we are most definitely going to have words
That’s a conversation that will bear no fruit. 😦
> For what kind of faith makes those that profess it loudest the
> least likely to be in obedience to it?
Honestly, that’s every kind of ‘faith’. The loudest are rarely the studious.
Again, for me, this all comes back to Jesus. If you are going maskless, running red lights, spew racism, etc, as a “pagan”, I have nothing to say to you other than you are sowing the seeds of your own destruction. But if you go maskless, run red lights, spew racism, *and claim you are a Christian*, we are most definitely going to have words. Because your attitudes and actions bring shame and disrepute to our Lord and His people, are a direct violation of His commands to us, and make me doubt my own faith at times. For what kind of faith makes those that profess it loudest the least likely to be in obedience to it?
There are a lot of parts of the US where driving under the influence is actually a badge of pride, a sign that you’re a macho man – anyone who refused to drive just because he was drunk would be mocked. (Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of overlap between that sector of our population and the folks who refuse to follow covid-19 precautions.)
Responsibility is a big scary word, and it’s too much of a burden for a lot of people.
Excellent and persuasive argument.
> it was long ago determined that the driver’s right is superseded by the child’s right…
Not in the United States. I don’t like to argue-the-metaphor, but in this case it is entirely on-point.
In the midwest United States a motorist runs any given traffic signal on average every EIGHT MINUTES. And with essentially no consequence; even if they kill someone. Motorist have legal privilege. The conversation about rights and privilege cannot be separated – sadly. Privilege is toxic to the notion of the rule of law (which exists -theoretically – to mitigate the intersection of desires and rights).
The degree to which Privilege erodes the legitimacy of the Law is all over the Masks “debate”.
> “””Well, people are dying in intersections. At a very sad rate…”””
In the United States pedestrian fatalities are at alarming rates, rising in most places.
Again, the argument is perfect. Yet anyone who follows the [very sad] attempts by American cities and states to implement a “Vision Zero” (towards zero pedestrian deaths) can tell you that it, painfully, doesn’t matter. The mask debates sounds like a dubbed copy; and appears to be having the same impact [aka: none] 😦 😦 😦
> I would encourage us not only to obey the letter of the regulations at this time,..
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We claim to follow a Lord who gave up all His divine glory and privilege to become human and serve us into death (Philippians 2). And the united testimony of the Gospels and letters of the NT is that He did not do so as a “He did it so we don’t have to” thing. He set the pattern we are to emulate with our own lives. So whenever Christians go on and on about their “rights”, about how necessary it is for them to “take control of their country back”, it makes me wonder if they’ve actually read the book they were so happy to see the President wave around in that photo op.
I wonder out loud if some “Christians” during this pandemic ever consider–Mathew 7:12? Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. These are the words spoken by Jesus.