Common Sense and Incrementalism

We’ve all heard the popular anecdote of the “Frog in the Pan”, and maybe even used it ourselves to communicate how small, incremental changes can often go unnoticed until it is too late. Regardless of whether the illustration is factual or not, the premise it strives to illustrate is undeniable. Things simply don’t happen to us “out of the blue” very often. Whether it’s in our careers, personal finances, addiction problems, family issues, or weight and fitness issues, we didn’t suddenly wake up one morning with the problem. Whenever someone asks of themselves, “How did this happen?”, it can usually be traced to a long series of overlooked or under-attended events, situations, or circumstances.

Inaction is what allows the natural processes of entropy to occur. Eventually, things arrive at stasis, or “heat death”. Without direct involvement things go from bad to worse. Order tends toward disorder and organization toward chaos. Many times it is the result of irrational application of emotions, such as fear; sometimes it’s just laziness. But whatever the reason, being overly passive about life and living usually yields undesirable results.

These same processes can be observed on a larger scale – in the sociopolitical sphere, for example. Abraham Lincoln recognized this in his famous speech at Gettysburg, PA when he voiced his concern over whether “this nation, or any nation so conceived (in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal’), can long endure.” He realized, as should we, that the most common form of government in the history of mankind involves the concentration of power in the hands of a few with the masses being subject to their will – for good or evil. It takes real energy and focused effort on the part of the people to keep its system of government from devolving into eventual despotism.

Lately we have been hearing a lot of talk from our politicians and the media about the need to “re-evaluate” the freedoms we have enjoyed for nearly 250 years. The wealthy and self-proclaimed “intellectual elite” want us to believe that they know what’s best for us. We hear it in the continual call for reductions to our rights – in the name of “Common Sense.” From “common sense” gun legislation (curtailing our right to defend ourselves and each other) to “common sense” health care (forcing everyone to buy something whether they want it or not) -and even to the point of limiting the size of a soda pop (common sense nutrition, I suppose). Yet, it cannot be demonstrated that any of these “freedom reductions” will have any benefit on society – only speculated.

These slow, methodical processes – changing things a little at a time – are so gradual that just like the “frog in the pan”, they can go unnoticed and unchallenged, if we are not paying attention. Understand that these “changes” do not happen overnight. Gradual stripping of rights in the name of “security”, confiscation of private property in the name of the “greater good”, and more and more promises to “take care” of the people who can and should take care of themselves, are all forms of Incrementalism that, with each step, takes us closer to the inevitable. Apathy is our worst enemy. The price of liberty, it has been said, is eternal vigilance.

It is not likely that some outside power will ever come in and, via a “coup d’état”, wrest our freedom from us. But, if we remain “asleep at the wheel” lulled by the sirens within our own ranks, then perhaps, one day, we may find that we have given it up – one piece at a time.

Stay safe (and vigilant),


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