A Few Thoughts and Opinions on Decisions

The action of making free decisions through free will on matters that affect one’s well-being is a core component of liberal democratic societies and what makes them so compelling and desirable for those without these freedoms. Whether it is the freedom to decide who to marry, what to do as a profession, all the way to choosing to have pint of beer or cigarette, the freedom of choice is a fundamental right. However, our rights to decide have outside pressures that shape those decisions as they are made, shape what choices are available, and shape consequences of those decisions. This short post explores our free will and right to decide within democratic societies, shares thoughts on outside pressures and influences that affect our choices, and asks what obligation there is to provide options to choose from and what might create those options.

When looking at our right to freely decide matters that bare importance to our lives, it is the hallmark of this right that we decide who governs over us. Many people migrating to Canada and the United States or Europe, are fleeing countries that do not have this structure to governance over the citizens and are therefore dictatorships of one kind or another. In the absence of the right to choose who governs over you, failed states happen time and again with the population usually left to their own devices when it comes to daily life which becomes daily survival for some. From this core element of the right to determine and decide who governs, we see the importance of free will and free choice in Western civilizations unlike that of countries in other parts of the world. It is the right to decide that permeates through governance where it starts, down to daily life.

The effort given to establish a democratic society is increasingly seen as intrinsically good in nature and has become now an unquestionably focused priority for the global community. Perhaps a good sign and indication of group validity is the number of people taking up the cause within fledgling democracies and externally from foreign supporters, even though the journey is not entirely guided with precision and an at times blurry vision of the goal exists. Some semblance of a democracy will result, but with what influences and reflecting which democracy in practice is unknown. People involved realize that this shift from dictatorships to democracies has growing pains in the form of rebellion, as old intrenched structures are uprooted and replaced by new liberalized and free ones. Pushing the envelop in change is the hope, or knowledge, that there is more good in the end than the harm caused during the shift. Those harms are well known to be clamp downs on protestors, silencing of journalists, and as we see with Russia, attempts to execute political rivals. It is not an easy transition and there is fear that it is only becoming harder with the multi-polarized global power structure in place today.

When looking to democratic societies and the freedom’s of choice within them, it is entirely true that they provide an equality through freedom of decision unlike undemocratic societies. The main factors at play in this equality, is the free capitalist market in tandem with a strong support of positive and negative liberties. Combined, those two elements both provide choice, and more importantly allow for the freedom of choice. These freedoms of choice and to decide that the average citizen takes so casually and pays no attention to, are the dreams of many in other parts of the world. It is also true though that pressures and influences can limit the equality of choices in society. Should we strive to make all options available to everyone and is that even attainable? Presuming the quest for equality is valid and ought to be done, are there limitations on our abilities to fulfill leveling the playing field of equal access, wealth, and riches, or would in doing that lead to a greater evil. That greater evil, a dictatorship of its own as history has taught.

We are free to decide what we want to do in our daily lives but of course there are limitations as with everything. If a product is not available, choice is limited. If a person cannot afford a product, again choice is limited. If two people in a diner party want appetizers or to pick the restaurant, the third person will have no choice at all. We can further these examples to any number of items that are purchased or accessed. The point made is simply that even if you have freedom of choice not everything is accessible to everyone. Causing these limitations are pressures and influences that impact the choices we can make. Immediately it appears as though limitations are a bad thing. However, is that true? It seems to depend on the source of that limitation.

In liberal society, decisions that are counter to a stable society are not supported, limited, and actively disrupted before they are made or during the actions that result. The Capitol Hill insurrection is an example of free will on decisions such as joining a Far-Right group, and to engage with anti-establishment ideologies and conspiracies by large portions of the population that went unfettered. It is a difficult question to answer in terms of whether these groups should be allowed to make the types of decisions that precipitated the insurrection. After the insurrection the answer was made clearer in a unified no. Pressures and influences inform observers of what action is deemed appropriate and right, versus inappropriate and wrong. These allowances can be eye opening in what they reveal about the directions and values of the groups and political parties with the most power in a society.

While it is often thought democracies are bastions of freedoms when compared to foreign governments, they are not without complaint from those living within them. Shifting from the Capitol Hill example to those protesting for action on the environment or equality under the law, recognition of protestors as those essentially fighting for their rights to have input on decision making should never be dismissed lightly. Dismissal can entail stronger actions from those who are most radicalized and whose vision of what needs to be done is an absolute. Taking a subjectivist approach, it seems clear that the pressures and limitations through regulation is neither good nor bad objectively but merely what the majority want to have happen. This restricts freedoms of the minorities in a way that leads to protests and causes civil strife and is closer to a true analysis of its moral validity than other theories. Other ethical theories would hold that the regulatory rules that we currently have are what is objectively good. However, anyone who has had a decision made for them that they disagree with, their decision forbidden, or limited, knows that it is not good. It is a struggle to think the individual is somehow less moral and it is impossible while seeing them as equal and without holding a dominating position over the individual.

From an importance on the ability to make choices/decisions, and governments being formed through the decisions of the people, it is logical to extend the importance of choice to providing citizens with options in terms of where to go to school, what products to buy, where to work, and so on. People do not want to be left alone with no options and will actively advocate government, civil organizations, and corporations for change if that situation persists over the years. While Government intervention plays a role in both limiting options and providing them in terms of schooling, and many other elements of daily life, what gives rise to choice in terms of products is of course not some government intervention but rather the lack of it in market regulation. Perhaps the most difficult challenge is to know what to intervene in and what to leave unrestricted and free. Presuming the Government has been in place over the course of ones life and not recently established, a limitation of choices outside the market is indeed attributed in part to Government actions and dialogue.

While Conservative parties would seek to reduce Government intervention in all areas in favour of the market, those leaning Liberal and further left, realize that unchecked disparities arise if the invisible hand is left alone. Potential actions can include further advanced dialogue to determine a course of action that makes available options, can include incentives to guide decisions, and reassurances of unhindered freedoms to make those life choices so many do. Partnering with the private sector can strengthen in the long run cooperation and avail citizens of options in so far as it leads to win-win scenarios that ensure continued cooperation and dialogue.

The freedoms of choice and the rights to make those decisions it seems are taken for granted today by many living in the Western developed world. Those who have travelled other parts of the world realize that these freedoms to choose everything from who governs to which pint of beer to have, is not something everyone else enjoys or is free to do. Even though we are all free in democratic societies to make these decisions Government continues to play a role in both creating pressures and influence on what decisions are permitted and easier to make than those that are not and are made illegal. There are no radically free choice environments where we can decide to do anything and nor should there be or a state of nature would form. Even with regulations Governments and the private sector play an important role in providing as many options as possible. Our freedom to decide is as important as any other freedom in so far as it includes freedom to decide what laws govern you and who governs you.