In this TED Talk, Barry Schwartz speaks on a society gone over the edge with rules and regulations, and the ethical nature of autonomy.
It is easy to fall into the habit of seeing the populace as a conglomerate of ignorant sheep, and there is some truth to it. As a group we consistently make poor decisions, but the group is made up of individuals. They have their failings, but most of them get up every morning and go to work. When faced with decisions in their daily lives, they tend to make good ones. They share your outrage over the state of the system.
It isn’t until they are corralled and herded through all the little reverberating insurance policies against litigation that most of their decisions tend to be bad ones. We haven’t added rules over the years because people have become less upstanding, people have become less upstanding because society has increasingly suppressed their spirit of ingenuity and drive with rules designed to take all of the rewards in order to ensure that no risks are taken. We now reap what we have sown. Fear of innovation. Bloated government, a litigious populace, listless children, high taxes, and low-flow toilets.
Update: This unfortunate trend has only accelerated in recent years. It’s gotten to where the insurance companies have themselves become regulators, as their coverage is now mandated, but they still write most of the terms and conditions, for both doctor and patient. Doctors are now told what they will reimbursed for in a way that has reduced their doctor patient relationship to a checklist that will keep them in business. Patients are told who they can see and which treatments will be covered, all while spending more money, on average, than before the insurance.