Grif.Net

05/23/20 Weekend Grif.Net – Prudential Decisions

05/23/20 Weekend Grif.Net – Prudential Decisions

Weighing Goods =
and Making Prudential Decisions
Kevin T. =
Bauder

To get to work =
I have to drive south about five miles and then west about four miles. I =
can take a variety of routes to cover that distance. I can drive south =
through city traffic on either Douglas or Winnetka Avenues. =
Alternatively, I can take County Road 100 or US 169, both of which are =
freeways. If I want to go west first, I can take either 63rd Avenue or =
Bass Lake Road; these are shorter routes, but they are city streets that =
have speed limits as low as 30 miles per hour. If I go south first, I =
can take State Highway 55 West (the Olson Highway), which is longer but =
has a 55 mile-per-hour speed limit. Or I can drive an additional =
half-mile south and take Interstate 394 west; this route avoids most =
stop lights, but it requires a bit of backtracking through a =
neighborhood. I could also travel west about halfway through my southern =
trip by taking 42nd Avenue, 36th Avenue, or Medicine Lake Road, though =
they have slower speed limits combined with multiple =
stops.

My best chance =
of avoiding a fatal crash is to take city streets as far as I can. Those =
routes, however, double my driving time, and they also increase the =
likelihood of a minor crash. By traveling the limited-access highways I =
can save time and lower the possibility of a minor crash, while =
increasing the likelihood of a fatal crash only =
incrementally.

Every time I =
drive to work, I must choose a route. In fact, I make this decision =
nearly every normal day, including Sundays (since my work is located in =
the building where I go to church). A variety of factors enter into the =
decision. Safety is one of those. So is time on the road. Other =
considerations such as road construction, weather, or the daily traffic =
report may also influence my choice. Under normal circumstances, =
however, none of these choices is morally wrong. Going to work is a good =
thing, and having multiple routes is also a good thing. My decision is a =
prudential decision, a decision between good things. I do not have to =
decide between a good and an evil.

We often =
encounter situations in which we must choose between good things. =
Sometimes we are also confronted with choices between bad things. As =
long as these bad things are natural evils rather than moral evils, our =
choice is still a prudential one. Shall I choose to avoid the traffic =
jam or shall I choose to avoid the road construction? The truth is that =
I do not have to choose either unless I embrace the good of going to =
work. I do not choose the (natural) evil for its own sake, but as a =
subsidiary effect of getting to work. In other words, when I choose to =
go to work, the delay over traffic or road construction is an unintended =
consequence.

This =
discussion is directly applicable to the way that we face an epidemic. =
To halt the spread of the disease or to “flatten the curve,” =
some people reasonably wish to invoke quarantine-like measures. It is =
not unreasonable to limit the size and frequency of gatherings =
temporarily, to restrict access to public places, and to require =
prophylactic measures like masks, gloves, and social distancing. Though =
these choices will probably not keep anybody from catching the disease, =
they may slow down the rate at which people catch it and thus save some =
lives by lowering the odds that the hospitals will become overloaded =
with patients. That is a good thing.

Nevertheless, =
these restrictions take a toll. For one thing, the forcible deprivation =
of civil rights is in some ways worse than the physical threat of the =
disease. For another, businesses have to be shuttered and people put out =
of work. Those who are not able to earn a livelihood and who have not =
prepared for hard times may have trouble acquiring the necessities of =
life. Furthermore, intrusive governmental overreach is difficult to =
repulse once it has begun (including the overreach involved in =
mass-distributing fiat money). Avoiding these calamities is also a good =
thing, and to choose liberty over some level of safety is not =
unreasonable, either.

How much =
liberty should people be expected to surrender in the interest of =
incrementally increasing the probability that a few more individuals =
will survive the disease? Some have argued in favor of greater =
restrictions; others are increasingly arguing in favor of greater =
liberty. My point is not to advocate either direction, though I will add =
that I am in an “at risk” category, and will probably have a =
rough time if I catch the disease. My point is that the choice between =
greater safety and greater liberty is a prudential =
one.

I am not =
suggesting that liberties must never yield to concerns over safety, nor =
do I believe that all intrusions upon liberty are warranted as long as =
they can be done in the name of safety. At the present time, however, =
none of the evidence points clearly in one direction or the other. =
Shutting down businesses and ordering people to stay at home may be =
doing some good, though nobody can really say how much. On the other =
hand, the intrusions upon liberty are probably not intractable, though =
nobody can really be quite sure.

What we can =
say is that the quarantine-like measures have probably done nearly all =
of the good that they are going to do. Here in Minnesota we’ve had =
nearly two months of “flattening the curve.” Just how flat =
is it supposed to be? Barring a cure or a vaccine, at some point we are =
going to have to let the disease run its course. Each passing day brings =
a lower return of safety and places a heavier burden upon liberty. At =
some point, the responsibility must be shifted onto us who are at risk: =
if we wish, we can still shut ourselves up and let the rest of the world =
get on with living.

We take risks =
every day as part of our ordinary lives. I risk a crash by driving to =
work. I risk an incrementally greater chance of a fatal crash by driving =
to work on freeways. These choices are prudential; I have to weigh all =
considerations and make the choice that seems best under the =
circumstances. Safety is a concern, but it is only one of many. =

The choice =
about whether to open businesses (and churches) or to shelter at home is =
also a prudential choice. To this point, state and local governments =
have been making that choice for all people. We are nearing the point, =
however, at which people must be permitted to make it for =
themselves.

~~

Dr Bob Griffin =

bob@grif.net =
www.grif.net

"Jesus =
Knows Me, This I Love!"