It is very common today to find people advocating political solutions to problems (imagined or real). For example,
Lot of people take to smoking
Tax tobacco products heavily, Ban the portrayal of smoking in cinema, Punish celebrities who dare to smoke
High incidence of fatal accidents on roads
Make it mandatory to wear helmets while driving
Low representation of women in parliament
Make it mandatory for political parties to field women candidates in a certain percentage of constituencies.
and so on.
The implicit premise leading people to advocate such ‘solutions’ is that human behavior is primarily conditioned or determined by social circumstances and so the way to solve problems is to frame the right rules, to nudge people in the right directions. This premise is false. Society is merely a group of individuals. It is individual thoughts and actions that determine the course of a society, not the other way round. In fact it is redundant to talk about individual thoughts or actions. It is only individuals and not society that can think or act. Social conditions do have an impact on individuals’ decisions but the choice to act in a particular way ultimately lies with the individual.
Although it is easy to see that the fundamental power of choice lies with individuals, it is a fact that a large number of people do go through their lives like automatons, passively accepting widely held beliefs and acting accordingly. It is this that tempts people to advocate political solutions as a short cut to change peoples’ beliefs and thus their behavior. Further any attempts to implement political solutions makes a society more authoritarian and makes more of its members passive automatons. What then keeps such attempts from being successful? It is the fact that all human achievements are the result of the power of choice. As the number of passive automatons in a society increases, the achievements of its members shrink. Ironically those who believe that social conditions determine human behavior are the ones who do not understand the value of a society of free and independent men.