Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Opting Out v. Opting In

How do you feel about "opting out" as opposed to "opting in?"  This recently became a subject of interest in the Republican presidential debates.  Gov. Rick Perry defended his signing of a bill passed by the Texas legislature requiring all girls of a certain age to be vaccinated against HPV (human papilloma virus).  HPV can be precursor to cancer of the cervix.  His argument, when challenged by those who maintained that this was government interfering with a decision that should be left to families, was that the legislation included an "opt out" clause, allowing unwilling families to do just that - opt out.

What about this "opting out" choice?  It seems to me that for any organization (government, business, health facility, etc.) the "opt out" option clearly favors the organization rather than the individual.   "Opting in" is  an intentional choice.  "Opting out" is a default choice.  Very different!  It is much easier to not respond than to respond.  Businesses are well aware of that fact - especially book clubs and magazine subscription services.  "We will send you this book if we don't hear from you by...." is quite a contrast from "Once we receive your order, we will send you this book." There are obvious reasons why the default option rather than the intentional choice option is offered.

"Opt-out" (default) choices have a ring of speciousness about them.   When a choice is in the offing, doesn't an "opt-in" (intentional) choice seem far more equitable?

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