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Spooky Politicians That Go Bump in the Night

October 31, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

As predictably as falling leaves and longer nights, the end of October brings children disguised as pretend ghosts and goblins, and politicians whipping up fears of supposedly real ones. Democrats air spooky commercials alleging a war on women, on the poor, on teachers, on unions. Republicans speak of Islamic extremists poised to achieve world domination, or of terrorists wielding an Ebola weapon in the United States.

Both sides share the same message: the world is uniquely dangerous, and we’re here to keep you safe.

To think otherwise—that the world is less dangerous—seems foolish. To state it publicly is presumed to be a political liability. After all, the world looks uniquely dangerous—especially if you focus on the dangerous parts. A new Cold War seems in the offing when Russia annexes the Crimea and sends its proxies into eastern Ukraine. President Obama’s offhand remark that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was al Qaeda’s JV team has been played back incessantly as ISIS has seized territory in Iraq and Syria. Ebola could be the modern equivalent of the Spanish flu of 1918 that claimed over 50 million lives worldwide. Or, for the U.S. at least, it could be more like the swine flu of 1976, which killed 1 person. More people died from the vaccine to prevent it. We simply don’t know. But there are times, especially in the closing days of an election campaign, when it seems positively absurd to argue that the world is not very dangerous.

The end of October brings children disguised as pretend ghosts and goblins, and politicians whipping up fears of supposedly real ones.”

We can always use a little perspective, however, and campaigns shouldn’t be fact-free zones. Of course there are dangers in the world. There always have been. And there always will be. But one’s chances of dying a violent, premature death are at their lowest point in recorded history. The website HumanProgress.org (full disclosure, a Cato project) documents the many ways in which our lives are improving. And Americans, in particular, enjoy a degree of security and well being that our ancestors would envy and that our contemporaries do envy.

When we think of the litany of threats that Americans worry about, some are rather familiar. We still worry about war with major states, or about being drawn into wars with minor ones. We worry about the proliferation of mass casualty …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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