Our society continues to sacrifice freedom in an attempt to achieve a greater degree of goodness. We have not yet learned that when we force individuals to conform to prescribed behavior, we remove from individuals the freedom they need to fully develop their talents and capabilities to contribute.

The price of freedom is that some individuals will not perform as well as we would like them to. A viable approach is to focus on providing opportunity rather than ensuring a particular result.

We have chosen to spend millions of dollars on a barrier mounted on the Cold Spring Bridge of Highway 154. This barrier is expected to reduce suicide jumps off of the bridge. The barrier was motivated by the discomfort of state workers who are involved with these suicides. It is not clear if the barrier will reduce the number of suicides, or simply change the method used. Regardless of the technique, all suicides will cause discomfort to the responders. We are choosing to spend a large amount of money to influence the method of suicide, instead of prioritizing freedom and prevention.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) was passed on March 23, 2010. It is not yet known what the impact of this legislation will be, but it is clear that this is a precedent-setting action. This Act requires us to purchase federal health care insurance, as long as it does not cost more than 8% of our income, in which case the government will subsidize the cost. Some special interest groups have already negotiated exemptions from this requirement. For most of us, this will be the first time the government has forced us to purchase a particular product or service. This flies in the face of anti-trust laws that prevent a company from dominating the market. In this case, the federal health-care insurance will more than dominate.

Many states are currently involved in court battles in an attempt to overturn this precedent-setting legislation. They believe that an individualís right to choose to participate should not be taken away. I also would like to keep my freedom of choice, and assume that most of you would like the same. What are we willing to do about it?

If the government is willing to force us to purchase federal health care insurance for our own good, what will be next? Will we be forced to consume a certain quantity of broccoli each week? Will we be forced to stay within weight guidelines?

There are advantages to mandated goodness. We can eliminate the panhandlers and the homeless. We can eliminate inefficiency in transportation and housing. We can achieve uniformity and evenness, and minimize discomfort.

However, the price for mandated goodness is steep. First, we cannot afford it, as the federal government is already spending $4.5 billion per day that exceeds the resources available. Second, the government does not always know best, so mandates prevent great solutions from being developed. Third, the market is not allowed to push to an optimal answer. Fourth, the creativity of individuals and business will be squelched.

A story that contrasts conformity to individuality is found in the childrenís book The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. I was impressed enough with this story during college to be part of a group that generated a brief musical of the story for a drama class. Give the book a read, think about the dreams and freedoms that you would like to have in your life, then think about how you are going to react to mandated goodness from our government. Freedom, individuality, and creativity will serve us better over the long term than mandated goodness.

Brad Ross is an engineer from Los Olivos. Please write to princentliv@gmail.com to share principles that affect your life, or to provide feedback.