Deterrence

This is the concept that an action can be prevented by the doubt of consequences. Not a new idea, nuclear deterrence has been the de facto one for half a century – it’s how North Korea manages to have any semblance of power despite no economic/social structure.

It’s been typically viewed at the global level, between countries. In fact, it applies to our day to day lives. Prison is a pretty effective deterrent, not too many people want to end up there. There’s likely a laundry list of things you don’t do because of the potential consequences, and for the most part, the actions before the consequences are likely amoral or unethical anyhow.

But we’re in a place now where the consequences of an action are not proportionate to the action itself. You steal $10m and get fined $1m. You’re ahead by 9. Or better yet, get fined and increase your bottom line. You want to express your right to vote, but your employer warns you’ll be fired if you miss work. You want to get a health test but it will cost you 2 days pay or more.

It’s really an interesting conundrum. People who want to do the “right thing” are actually disadvantaged to do so. Either they put their own health or their livelihoods at risk. If the only way you’re able to put bread on the table requires you to look the other way from time to time, that is not a choice – it’s an abuse of power. How many people can barely get out of bed with the flu, but still go into work because they aren’t allowed sick leave? Or send their kids to school ‘cause they can’t take time to care for them?

I’m conscious that I live in one of the most liberal countries in the world, where individuals have rights that are only dreamed of. It’s folly to say that we’re good enough and we won’t improve until others catch up. There are plenty of pockets where people barely get by, and there are no options to get out. A homeless person doesn’t just magically stop being homeless – nor was it magic that made them so. Nearly all of the “startup millionaires” had their parents give them money, or connections through angel investors. There’s a good reason they are mostly white males.

Hats off to those who push back. To those who draw that line and say it’s enough. That come up with innovative idea to bypass the systematic deterrence. That find a way to value everyone. That take the time to listen to other points of view, that grow as a community, that are willing to accept they are wrong and grow from it.

We’re all people at the end of the day. We all deserved to be treated as such.

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