Alyssa Ahlgren: Give Me Liberty Not Guarantees

We live in the freest and most powerful nation in the world because our founders agreed that they would rather live in dangerous freedom than “safe” captivity. A life worth living is a life without fabricated guarantees. 

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; we are not guaranteed a single thing in this life. Not safety, not security, not happiness, not a good job, not comfort, and not convenience. Yet, that’s what we expect. 

Dr. Fauci said something in a recent interview that was disturbing to me. He told NPR that he “can’t guarantee” a physical vote in November will be safe. What concerned me was not that he thought we might not be able to have a physical vote for the presidential election—something that would be an absolute disaster for our voting system as voter fraud would run rampant–no, it was the word “guarantee.” Since when did life, policy, governance, or decision-making operate on guarantees? Let me tell you when: never. 

Nowhere in the Constitution are we guaranteed safety. Because it’s nonsense. I cannot even guarantee you will make it through this day. No one can. To use language like “I cannot guarantee” and then proceed to make statements regarding our nations safety is nonsensical, unnecessary, and will only result in further panic and uncertainty. But this is where we are. We live in a world obsessed with guarantees. 

We want guaranteed housing, healthcare, schooling, and jobs. We want to live without the feeling of discomfort, worry, pain, or being offended. We have become soft as a society and we’ve become complacent to government interference as a result. It’s not enough to say that government should do its best to mitigate a crisis while keeping individual liberties intact. No, we want to hear that the government is doing all it can to promise us complete safety at any cost–even if it means sacrificing the protection of our rights. 

Instead of valuing freedom over a sense of security, we’ve grown to value apparent safety over liberty. We’ve forgotten that it is impossible to eliminate risk, and to trade in our rights for the “common good” is a losing bargain. We face risk every day. Life is merely one giant decision-making process of weighing risk and reward. When we drive to work, we are making the choice that collecting a paycheck outweighs the risk of dying in a car crash on the way to the office. When we get up every morning, we are deciding that participating in life requires you to accept that the world has dangers and no government or person can isolate you from them. 

Living for guarantees only opens the door for authoritarian rule. It’s a permission slip for unchecked power as long as there is an overarching societal platitude of “I feel secure.” However, security and safety are always temporary and elastic; liberty and freedom are not. Our world is, and always will be, filled with uncertainty, unexpected events, a changing environment we must adapt to, and new risk and rewards analyses that must be made. It is impossible, if not foolish, to suggest that we must guarantee something before we can agree upon it as a society.

So yes, of course Fauci “can’t guarantee” a physical vote in November will be safe. That is because no one can guarantee anything will be safe. The fact that Dr. Fauci even made this statement is ancillary to the crisis and even our way of life at large. We have never strived for a guarantee, we strive toward mitigating adverse consequences. We will never eliminate risk; we can only tolerate it. We make social contracts daily with each other on how much risk we are willing to put up with in order to live our lives. The same goes with government. Policy is merely risk-benefit analysis and yes, that includes people’s safety. Recognizing this reality is not taboo, it’s not harsh or lacking in empathy, it’s what we’ve always done to ensure a nation of freedom, liberty, and equal opportunity. 

Nothing in life is a guarantee and the moment we start expecting that is the moment we get complacent with our rights. We live in the freest and most powerful nation in the world because our founders agreed that they would rather live in dangerous freedom than “safe” captivity. A life worth living is a life without fabricated guarantees.