Do Daredevils Deserve Our Rescue Dollars?

January 5, 2007

Keith Hammonds at the Fast Company blog brought up a subject that I’ve thought about before but was too wimpy to say publicly. The basic question is: When people do daredevil stunts and then are in need of rescue, should tax dollars that you and me pay be used to rescue them.

Hammonds uses the examples of Ken Barnes, whose boat was destroyed while attempting to sail around the world, and the climbers who died climbing Mt. Hood last month. It was actually the Mt. Hood incident that got me thinking, after I saw a picture in the paper of a small group of would-be rescuers who were getting ready to start scaling the mountain in search of the climbers. Was it fair to spend the money and potentially put rescuers in dangers to save people who were engaged in a highly risky behavior for sport?

I remember long ago in grade school we had a question put to us as to whether the people who lived near Mt. St. Helen’s should be forced to evacuate when it was erupting. I can’t really remember the point of the question, but my answer was no—if they want to stay they can. The point being that it’s their choice to suffer the consequences of that risky decision. The teacher didn’t like my answer. But I guess I still feel that way. If people want to engage in risky behaviors, that’s up to them. But if they want help when things go wrong, they should set up a lifeline before they do their stuff instead of calling on public servants to bail them out when things go bad.

Of course it’s hard to draw the line between what is a risky behavior and what is not, and of course no one wants to be heartless when someone is in danger, regardless of the fact that the person may have purposely put himself/herself in that position. But since several states have charge-for-rescue laws on the books, it’s obvious that some governments are willing to try to draw the distinctions.

It’s a disturbing question.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.


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