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Choice: Who should have control over your future? | Chapter 5


Published October 3, 2022

A well-functioning government is key to prosperity, but too much government control can lead to fewer opportunities and less prosperity. Many governments interfere with decisions that most people would expect to make on their own. These governments directly prohibit certain choices and indirectly control which choices people ultimately make. Learn why prosperity depends on individuals retaining the right to make their own decisions about their lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Can you imagine how you would run your friend’s life? How would they manage your life? Would either of you enjoy that? What if someone you’ve never met is managing your life, would you be happy? Now imagine they are managing your life as well as millions of others at once, would it be even possible to do?
  2. Can you think of examples where people advocate for policies to manage other people’s lives? (Hint, these policies can be seen as normal and often times are pushed for because of the alleged good it would accomplish.)
View Transcript

You make decisions every day. There are small ones: Smoothie or bubble tea? Jeans or joggers? Nap now or nap later?

And then there are the big ones: How much education are you going to get? What will your career be? Where are you going to live? What are you going to do?! 

You aren’t alone in these big choices.  You’ll most likely talk with friends and research different options. You might ask family members for advice. Even if you don’t ask, they’ll probably give it to you anyway. But the decisions that affect your future prosperity are ultimately on your own capable shoulders—not your friends’, not your government’s.  

In theory, someone else taking over your big life decisions for you almost sounds like a relief, but you know better. It’s unrealistic to expect that anyone else could choose a job and life that’s truly best for you and your prosperity.

Fortunately, you don’t live in that world, but not everyone is so lucky. Many governments, often with the best of intentions, interfere with decisions that most people would expect to make on their own. 

These governments directly prohibit certain choices and indirectly control which choices people ultimately make. 

Those actions don’t just limit a person’s freedom of choice; they fail to create conditions that allow people to prosper. Government officials might believe that taking more control will help everyone lead a better life, but how can they possibly choose what’s best for each individual person?

Let’s say you’re living under one of those powerful governments and you dream of becoming a marine biologist. Your government might limit the number of people who are allowed to become marine biologists: just enough to make sure that there are plenty to observe and research dolphins, but not so many that some can’t find any dolphins to study. Good intentions, right?

But if the people in power have connections to other aspiring marine biologists, they’re probably going to give them preferential treatment, and you’ll be out of luck. They’ll use their best guess to decide what you should do instead. 

More control leads to fewer opportunities and less prosperity, and it’s not just hypothetical. We’ve seen it in action. For decades, China’s communist government limited where people could live and work. Families were only allowed to have one child. Even today, governments in China, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela maintain control over who can operate businesses and where people can live or work. 

Now, we do need some government rules. You probably want laws against violence and fraud, laws that ensure worker safety and support a cleaner environment. If someone feeds your phone to apiranhas, you’d like a law that holds them accountable. 

There are areas where the government has a duty to intervene and assure public safety, but can laws and regulations solve all of our problems? 

What a government decides not to do is even more important than what it chooses to do. Our prosperity depends on having a government that allows individuals to make most decisions themselves—a government that trusts you to know what is best for you and your life.

We all want a world where people have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, and governments can help secure this by establishing laws that apply equally to all, and leaving the rest to us. 

Now get out there and be the best marine biologists you can be. Or whatever else you want.