When I picked that title, the movie “Escape From Alcatraz” came to mind, and that’s appropriate. Many people view consequences as a prison. While not all consequences are bad, we tend to try to avoid the ones that are. If you were to rob a bank, the consequence would and should be prison - but you would hire a lawyer to try to keep you from that consequence.
However, just like Alcatraz, there is no escaping from consequences.
We used to hear parents discuss “natural consequences” with their children. It was a part of growing up and teaching children about risk, reward, danger, sorrow, and joy. These lessons served us well, and they were often not taught with words but by actions, through the lives of our parents and grandparents. Thomas Edison’s attempt at designing the light bulb was successful on the 1000th attempt. Certainly, he was taught perseverance as a young child! A consequence of perseverance is often a reward.
As a writer who spends much of my time researching history, especially our nation’s history, clearly, our Republic is a natural consequence of calculated risk, actions taken by people who understood the long slog for liberty to triumph over tyranny. The risk we now take is one of losing what was gained at great risk and cost. There is a consequence for every action, but also of every inaction.
Let’s look at some examples and some of their natural and unintended consequences.
Everyone gets a trophy!
I suppose it is natural for parents to try and smooth out the rough spots in our kids' lives, but do we consider that in trying to mitigate the natural consequences we create one that is much worse? Most of us know that when a bird hatches, the struggle, and effort required to escape the shell also strengthens the baby bird. In fact, if we were to help remove the shell, in many cases, if not most, the bird will die. Our efforts to help actually kill that which we are trying to help!
I read a story many years ago about a child who was born without arms. The mother had taught him to dress himself using his feet like hands. A reporter heard about the little boy and scheduled an interview to do a human interest story.
During the course of the interview, the mother had her son change his clothes, largely to demonstrate how well he could cope despite his “handicap.” The little boy struggled to undress and put on the new clothes as the two adults spoke. After a time the reporter became quiet and watched the boy. Exasperated she urged, “Why don’t you help him? Can’t you see he is having a difficult time doing this?” As she shifted her eyes to the mother, she saw tears in her eyes as she responded, “I am.”
We steal from our children’s futures when we try to protect them from adversity and failure. We make them weak, and they don’t learn to fail, which is an important lesson. When the result is the same regardless of the effort put forth, what is the point in trying or endeavoring to improve?
If we do this, we will end up with snowflakes as children who cannot handle any challenges, who will need free speech zones, and safe rooms with play-doh and coloring books. Oh, wait…..
The pill and abortion
We are taught at an early age by progressives that abstinence is not an option, that one cannot control their urges. Barack Obama once said, “I wouldn’t want my daughter punished with a baby.”
No, we want to remove anything negative or inconvenient as a consequence of our actions. We have the pill so we can behave as we want, and have an abortion just in case. We tend to live up to or down to expectations, so we are told we cannot, then why try? “It’s my body; you can’t tell me what to do with my body.” The frivolous attitude towards sexual relationships destroys the need for commitment-- an essential component of relationships.
A possible unintended consequence of the pill is the increase in STDs. According to the CDC, sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise. Of course, the pill and abortion only impact heterosexual relationships; however, disease is on the rise for the homosexuals as well. In the end, it is the same issue-- a natural consequence of a chosen act.
Another unintended consequence might be the “cheapening” of life. If we can take something that looks like a baby and deny it is a baby and call it something else for the sake of dismembering it because it was going to be an inconvenience, have we not devalued life itself? Where do we ultimately draw the line? Assisted suicide? Euthanasia? I hope and pray that one day this period of history is looked up as being worse than slavery, and that people recoil in horror at what is being done to these children.
Too big to fail
Here I have two things in mind-- businesses and banks, along with high-level officials. We all recall the big bailout in 2008 and the term “Too Big to Fail.” This meant the consequences of their failure was much worse than bailing them out. Not so fast. Perhaps we should have learned that bigger is not better.
Now those institutions are even bigger and have even more debt and risk. This means that the next time the cost will be even higher, and since there wasn't any real consequence, it has virtually guaranteed that there will be a next time.
The natural consequence of high risk and mismanagement is failure. While that failure might have some pain, the result will be a stronger institution. Had GM been allowed to go into bankruptcy, a leaner and stronger company would have emerged. Instead, the price tag for taxpayers was tens of billions of dollars and a company that still has all the problems it did before. There will be no price to pay for undue risk and poor management, so what incentive is there to change?
And what of high-level officials? Does it not seem they have a disdain for any who would question their behavior? And why wouldn’t they? IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, or Lois Lerner paid no price for their activities and behavior. Attorney General, Eric Holder, was found in contempt of Congress over the Fast and Furious program; however, nothing happened. Secretary Hillary Clinton violated the law regarding security issues, and nothing happened because she didn’t "intend" to violate the law, at least according to James Comey.
There are those who might say we should not use the justice system to go after politicians and bureaucrats, that is what third world banana republics do. Stories of gulags and work camps abound from North Korea to Russia and China where those who don’t play along are sent to and never seen again. However, if there is no consequence to misbehavior or criminal activity, then there is no disincentive for that behavior to improve. In fact, since it is understood that power corrupts, it is essentially a further reward for corruption at high levels.
I could go on and on, but the point is clear. Our founders believed in cause and effect, responsibility, risk, reward, and consequence. They knew the consequence of tyranny was liberty lost. They knew men had yearned to be free for centuries, and the Declaration and Constitution were the culmination of centuries of efforts by liberty loving men and women. The risk was high, but so was the reward. Where does this leave us?
There is a consequence to inaction as well. Many of us have slept and presumed everything would work out all right, after all, it always has. Right? This is America; we will always be free-- at least freer than anyone else, right? Not so fast.
Remember all those kids we raised who never were spanked, who always got a trophy, and who now have to be protected from hurt feelings? Will they be the guardians of liberty for us? What of those who choose convenience over the life of a child? What of those who depend on the government to keep them out of bankruptcy or prison? And we have not even touched on the issue of those who chose to live off the largesse of others rather than take control and responsibility for their own lives.
The financial demands of a huge government force both parents to work, leaving kids in daycare or home alone. Many children of single parent families live without the influence of a father. It does not take a village to raise a child; it takes dedicated parents. It is not the role of the church, the community, and certainly not the government. All this departure from the family as it should be, has consequences, both direct and unintended ones.
When I wrote Spare Time, it was about responsibility and consequences. It was about “stepping up to the plate” and doing what it takes. The consequences of "business as usual" are not leading us to a good place. History will judge us. Decide now how you want your grandchildren to remember your role in the future of the republic. Will you be viewed as a guardian or an accomplice in its demise?
Cover photo: https://www.flickr.com/people/jonasb/