Sunday, August 19, 2012
Some things can't be fully appreciated unless compared to their opposites. We hold light dear because its absence is darkness. Crisp autumn mornings are sweeter when compared to summer's searing heat. Likewise, reward can't be fully valued without risk. The connection between risk and reward is a common element in economic and personal liberty, which somewhat explains why some people work so hard to disjoin them.
Trial lawyers have certainly helped foster a reward without risk mentality. Frivolous litigation clogs the courts and cheapens the legal system. Of course, not all lawyers are crooked. Reputable lawyers are assets to their communities and credits to their profession. But shysters and their lamebrain clients are as devastating to personal responsibility as Josef Stalin was to Ukrainian agriculture.
I dare say most of us have attended a baseball game. When we passed through the gates we encountered the risk of a batted or thrown ball entering the spectator area. If we were attending a youth game -- perhaps in a league of 11-year-olds -- and sitting next to the bullpen, the chance of being struck increased. Like swimming in shark-infested waters, baseball presents foreseeable risks that rational spectators should expect in exchange for the rewards of watching a game. It's sad to say, but rationality doesn't always rule the day.
Elizabeth Lloyd was sitting next to the bullpen at a youth baseball game when she was struck by an errant throw. In harmony with the low risk tolerance common to modern America, she sued Matthew Migliaccio, the 11-year-old catcher who threw the ball. According to the lawsuit, Migliaccio intentionally assaulted Lloyd causing her "severe, painful, and permanent" injuries. Her suit also accuses the young ballplayer of "engaging in inappropriate physical and/or sporting activity" in Lloyd's vicinity. Now really, even in a litigious society, what could be a more appropriate sporting activity than for a catcher to throw a baseball in a bullpen?
Go ahead; roll your eyes at Lloyd's reasoning, or lack thereof. It doesn't mean you're denying or ridiculing her injury. Baseballs can hurt, and they can cause trauma. Both of my sons have played baseball and both have been plunked by beanballs and bad hops. As catchers, they absorbed more wild pitches and foul balls than I can recall. They accepted the potential for injury as the risk due to earn the reward, which was playing the game. Do spectators not also assume some degree of risk when they're in close proximity to the action?
According to Bob Migliaccio, Matthew's father, "You assume some risk when you go out to a field." The comment is obviously directed toward the lawsuit against his son. But its inherent truth extends far beyond a catcher's error. There is risk in everything we do, in everywhere we go. There is risk in learning to ride a bike, drive a car, build a career, and live on our own, and each risk carries with it the potential for reward. Our society is increasingly litigious and dependent because of the childish belief that rewards can be realized without facing the risks, or that risks are someone else's responsibility.
Even if separating risk from reward were possible it wouldn't be advantageous. When rewards are received without risk, or gains realized without effort, the value is diminished and the prize is unappreciated. Just consider the entitlement mentality. How often do welfare recipients publicly express gratitude for their monthly checks, Medicaid, subsidized housing, EBT cards, or free school lunches? I can't recall a time either.
Elizabeth Lloyd's lawsuit epitomizes an attitude that goes far beyond the bleachers at Little League baseball games; it's at work throughout our culture. Utter contempt and disregard for the risk-reward connection is a rejection of personal responsibility, without which a free society cannot exist, much less thrive.
Generally speaking, the greater risks one accepts the greater the rewards: finer homes, nicer cars, bigger TVs, smarter phones, and greater economic security. The relationship between risk and reward is fundamental to personal and national economic well-being. But politicians, the intelligentsia, and other social elitists spent the better part of the 20th Century selling the notion that risks are unfair and rewards are a civil right. To our shame, those efforts have borne fruit. The predictable result is a greater dependence on government and more politicians willing to confiscate and redistribute the risk-taker's reward.
This column first appeared at the American Thinker.
Posted by Anthony W. Hager at 4:40 PM