Website owner:  James Miller

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The right road and the wrong road, the easy road and the hard road

We make the following observations:

1. Mankind, in general, has a natural tendency for acting imprudently, foolishly. Unless people have some understanding as to what the prudent and wise way is (as obtained from “common sense”, the Bible, or some other source), and have the desire, inclination, and personal self-discipline to act in the way demanded by prudence, they will usually follow the foolish road. The reason for this is that the foolish, imprudent way usually corresponds to the easy, natural way. The foolish road usually corresponds to the way that gives pleasure of some kind or other and people just naturally follow the way that gives pleasure. Thus most people follow the road of doing things like drinking, smoking, using mind altering drugs, overeating, eating all kinds of delicious delicacies (i.e. snack foods) that prudence would require that they not eat (because they are bad for their health), watching erotic (pornographic) videos, engaging in illicit or perverted sex, etc. (i.e. most people follow the way of bodily desire and appetite). In addition to the fact that most people tend to take the easy road, most people are followers; they just do what everyone else does; they just follow the crowd. And the crowd always takes the easy, natural, foolish road. People, in general, are disinclined to question, examine, think for themselves. That is work. Most people are intellectually lazy. They don’t like to think. Instead of figuring things out for themselves, doing what good sense would indicate, they just do what they really want to do, and in some way rationalize their action. People do what comes natural and easy. What comes natural and easy is doing those things that everyone else is doing. It is taking the old, frequented paths instead of trying new paths. It is preparing food as their parents did, eating the way their parents did, instead of questioning old ways and trying new ways.

The way of prudence and wisdom, the right road, usually requires self-control, self-discipline. Most people are not much inclined toward self-control, self-discipline. These are not attractive concepts. Self-control is hard. People don’t like to do hard things. Taking the prudent route usually involves changing one’s ways, changing one’s habits. People have difficulty changing their habits.

People want to do what they want to do. What they want to do is the easy, fun, enjoyable thing. Most people resist rule by Mind, Reason. They want to follow the way of Pleasure, the way of Impulse. They procrastinate doing what they should do in favor of doing what they want to do. Reason recommends thinking about the future, thinking about the future consequence of action. People prefer following present bodily desire, prefer the easy road, to listening to Reason.

2. Taking the foolish, imprudent road usually has consequences. There is usually a price to pay for taking the foolish road, acting imprudently. Consider the topic of bad eating habits and overeating. One sometimes encounters cultures or sub-cultures where it seems like almost everyone is way overweight or obese. Everywhere you look you see hippopotamuses waddling about like ducks. You meet families. The father and mother are obese. All the grown children and their families are obese. And you soon learn that all these people are having health problems, all kinds of health problems. Two sisters are having knee problems and can’t walk. One is in a wheelchair. The other has been in a nursing care facility for the last three months because she is not only unable to walk but has heart problems, fluid collection problems, sugar problems, etc. A brother recently had a severe stroke with heavy repercussions of different types — mind problems, body function problems, etc. On top of this you have a domino effect. One family member’s problems brings nursing care problems for the spouse and other members of the family. The result of all this is a personal nightmare for the family. Everyone is sick. Everyone is affected. What is the basic, underlying cause of all this? Some kind of genetic problem? No. The cause is all about personal habit. Wrong cooking habits, wrong eating habits (and also lack of exercise). Eating the wrong kinds of food; eating too much greasy, fried food; overeating, etc. Carrying too much weight is very hard on the body. It is hard on the knee joints, it is hard on the heart; it is probably hard on most of the body’s systems and sub-systems. Everyone knows that obesity leads to health problems. And associated with health problems are costs: all kinds of personal physical pain, all kinds of worries and frustrations stemming from from running from one doctor to another, and probably all kinds of problems produced by taking ten or fifteen different types of medication (doctors do their best but what they can do may be limited). In addition to all these costs arising from bad eating habits, there is another kind of cost: the dollar cost. Who pays the bill for all the treatments? Do these obese people themselves pay out of their pockets? Not usually. It is usually insurance companies or, if the people are on welfare, the government. But, at bottom, the answer is “we do”. Everyone does. We pay through high health insurance payments and high taxes. We have just explored all the ramifications and costs stemming from a single type of imprudent activity. But all the other types of imprudent activity spawn their own particular set of ramifications and costs: drinking, smoking, using drugs, looking at pornography, engaging in illicit or perverted sex, etc. Each has associated with it emotional and psychological costs for the individual as well as dollar costs to society as a whole. Imprudent action has consequences. Imprudent habits have consequences. Consequences for the individual and consequences for society as a whole.

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. You can make a child go to school, but you can’t make him study. Studying is not the easy, natural, fun road. It is the hard road. It is something that requires effort and self-discipline. It is the way of prudence, not the way of bodily inclination. The easy way is to enjoy the social interactions that school offers, to enjoy the “school experience”, to play around, to do no more work than you have to. Some children in school may do poorly because they feel they are just “not smart enough”, can’t do it. They have no confidence in their own powers. And because they feel they can’t do it, they never really try. One of the most important lessons one can learn in life is the power that lies in effort and hard work. One can do about anything one is determined to do. Some children do very well in school with little effort. Learning seems to just come naturally to them. They may have good memories which may be a big asset to them. For many other children school is hard and they need to apply themselves and work hard (I fell in this later group). But a great many children are not inclined to work really hard. Most people are inclined toward foolishness and children are probably doubly inclined towards it. What happens to a teacher who has a lot of students who are in school only because they have to be there, not because they want to be there? Students who are not really interested in working hard, not really much interested in learning? My guess: teacher burnout, teachers who become resigned to providing a “basic child care service”. And what are the end consequences for the child who foolishly does not take advantage of the opportunity offered to him by society to get a good education? The time will come in his life when he has to go out and make a living.

I don’t believe that the government or anyone else should try to force anyone to do anything. If a person chooses to act imprudently, foolishly he should be allowed to do it. Everyone should be free to act as he wants, as long as he is not hurting anyone. However, a person who acts foolishly ought to be forced to face the consequences of his foolishness, pay the dollar costs of the bad consequences of his foolishness. He should be held responsible for the consequences of his foolish ways or bad habits. It doesn’t seem right to force society as a whole to pay the dollar costs incurred by the foolish ways or bad habits of individuals. If a person chooses to pursue bad eating habits or overeat, that is his business. But when he needs help due to the consequences of his actions, I should not be forced to pay, through high health insurance premiums or government taxes, the costs of helping him. Health insurance companies should have special policies and rates for individuals who take care of themselves health-wise — individuals who don’t smoke, drink, take drugs and who keep their weight down at a healthy level (Health insurance premiums should be based on the costs incurred by populations of people with similar lifestyles). It is important that a society gives its people incentive to act prudently: To act as they should act, according to Reason, instead of according to fleshly impulse. To do this it needs to make people take responsibility for their actions, bear the cost of their foolish ways and habits.               

May 2017

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