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UNNATURAL CONSEQUENCES

Consequences: The results or effects of an action or condition.  There are several varieties of consequences at play in the world, they can be broadly categorized as follows; Natural Consequences, Consequences of Consent, and Unnatural Consequences. 

Natural Consequences are those that exist simply by and because of the nature of the world in which we exist.  For example, light a match and throw it in to a bucket of gasoline and it will ignite - the results dictated by chemistry and the laws of thermodynamics.  If one jumps out of a third story window they will accelerate towards the ground at a rate of 9.8 m/s/s eventually coming to an abrupt injurious stop - victimized by the laws of gravity and motion.  Neglecting to chew ones food well can result in choking and eventual death, this is because the essential life process of cellular respiration occurring in each of the trillions of cells composing the body is halted without oxygen.  These are certain outcomes dictated by nature itself, avoidable only through active intervention or active avoidance.  We are all equally subject to this form of consequences.  

Consequences of Consent are those to which we have collectively agreed.  They are man made rather than wholly natural and have changed throughout time and place.  They are a product of and a defining component of our civil society.  For example, it is generally agreed that stealing is wrong and as such we have as a society agreed upon a definition of stealing and a set of consequences commensurate with the degree of the theft.  Knowing that operating a vehicle weighing a ton at high rates of speed presents dangers to the operator and others around them we have agreed to certain rules of the road so to speak and accept that there are consequences to violating them.  Being aware that there are aspects of human nature that cannot be captured within text on a page we have collectively agreed that a person accused of a crime is entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers and we collectively accept the outcome of such procedure.  These are just some of the things to which we have generally agreed and as such have consented to the associated consequences.  These are entirely man made and but for our collective consent to them these consequences would not exist.

Unnatural Consequences are those that are neither dictated by nature, nor consented to by the civil society at large.  They are instead imposed by individuals or by segments of the society to achieve desired ends.  This form of consequence is antithetical to the American Civil Society.  It is currently best exemplified by the actions of the leftward end of the political spectrum.  For example, there was the recent “punch a nazi” trend exemplified by a man striking a self-described white nationalist while he was speaking with a reporter.   Many of late are fond of the expression that “yes, you are free to speak, but you are not free from the consequences of your speech”.  This would be unremarkable if the consequences in question were of the natural or consented variety, but they are not.  When this motto is spoken it is typically meant to convey that I and those who agree with me are going to see to it that you suffer for holding an opposing view.  This has recently been embodied in such efforts as pressuring employers to fire people of dissenting views or driving public figures out of restaurants and other public spaces.   The natural consequence in these cases would be to meet speech with speech, to oppose policy with policy, especially when one has the better argument.

The effects of imposing unnatural consequences are several fold and cancerous.  First, it undermines the civil society and the structures we have consented to.  Second, it can make sympathetic parties of otherwise fringe, outlier individuals or organizations.  Third, it often has a crippling effect on ones own argument.  Fourth, it can spread to and pollute our institutions.   

The only consequences we have any right to impose upon our fellow Americans are those in the category of Consequences of Consent.  Heaven help us all if we continue down a path where the Nazi speaking is met with fists rather than opposing arguments, or where a political opponent is assaulted rather than honestly and vigorously campaigned against, or where a neighbor who espouses a different perspective is forced from his job rather than welcomed to an honest debate.

I would also offer a word of caution to those who support the imposition of unnatural consequences.  Consider carefully the following:  It is, among other things, a respect for the civil society and for the first two categories of consequences that guides the behavior of your fellow Americans.  The continued imposition of unnatural consequences upon them will undoubtedly erode these guideposts and once that occurs, what is left to prevent your opponents from choosing to impose unnatural consequences of their own design?

Scott SmithComment