Friday, January 10, 2014

Warning: The sky is falling!

The last few years have proved H.L. Mencken’s oft (but not oft enough) quoted statement that “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

I thought of that this week when I heard the news that Canada has announced the first avian flu death in North America – a traveler who recently returned from a trip to China.

Keep an eye out for suggestions by which government can lead us to be led to safely from this latest hobgoblin.

It truly is an endless series of hobgoblins, too. As if the bird flu wasn’t enough, there’s a deadly pig virus that has spread to 22 states.

You can almost follow the template in the average news story about these hobgoblins. First, we meet a victim of the hobgoblin as he or she struggles. Then, we are presented with numbers or evidence that the hobgoblin affects many people.

Next, a government official talks about what has been done to fight the hobgoblin and how much could be accomplished if only they had more money or if only the law were strengthened. The solution is almost always more taxpayer dollars or a tougher law, and less freedom or individual choice. The solution presented is very rarely fewer taxpayer dollars (so you can choose how your dollars are spent) or a relaxation of the law (so you can choose for yourself how – or whether – to address the matter).

The practical politicians like it when you’re scared – it gives them another chance to show how much you need them.

A better solution in almost every case: Refuse to be afraid. Free yourself.

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