Quote of the Day

Mollie Hemingway:

The fact is that America is now run by people who profit from keeping everyone else from taking risks.

This is an exaggeration but there is enough truth in it to make a serious point. We live in the safest society in history, yet many people in this society are obsessed with risk. What is going on?

(Via Instapundit.)

23 thoughts on “Quote of the Day”

  1. “To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.”

    –Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

  2. *Media – 24/7 horror stories keeps people watching or reading. People get paid a lot of money to scare other people.

    *Legal – Big money to be made or lost for accidents or negligence-related injuries.

    *Do Gooderism – We need a law to keep that from happening, because if only one child is saved then it’s worth it! And if you don’t support it, you must want children to die, you unfeeling bastard!

    Robert Goddard would be arrested on public nuisance or terrorism-related charges today.

  3. Risk and parasites. False symbiosis. Sometimes people need to get just near death enough to shake off the sickness. And survive long enough to build immunity to the next wave.

    Of course, that used to happen, and now just animals do it out of instinct.

  4. “Ancient Israel” never existed. Most of the Old Testament was presumably concocted during or after the Babylonian exile. Abraham never existed, Moses never existed, Solomon and David never existed, and so on.

  5. If you can manage to frighten enough people that their everyday lives are fraught with all sorts of dangers, then they will be more amenable to various forms of controls that, while supposedly protecting them, just happen to increasingly restrict their liberties.

    Ever wonder why there are so many crises in our society requiring the mobilization of our energies and resources in an effort akin to war? I can think of a half-dozen, and more, right off the top of my head.

    Whose motto is, “Never let a crisis go to waste”?

  6. “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.”

    H. L. Mencken

    I disagree with a lot of his ideas but this one is probably correct,

  7. America will always have the spirit of getting things done. It is in the nature of those who risked all to come here. I am optimistic in the fact that America always does the right thing – after trying all other options.

  8. “many people in this society are obsessed with risk”

    but even more people are afraid of risk….wanna bet?

  9. “iron age’, sure. Bronze Age? 600,000 men plus women and children wandering in Sinai for decades? And the named coves? And the empire that stretched from Egypt to the Euphrates? All bunk.

  10. Chaos promotes fatalism – facing an overwhelming number of uncontrollable threats humans naturally narrow their focus to the near term and resign themselves to a high likelihood of death beyond that. Even in modern societies – read any personal account of a WW II soldier, fatalism was endemic after the initial exposure to serious combat. Only when people have enough security to expect to survive into the long-term do they actually start to concern themselves with risk, because only then can it actually pay off. If you have a 1% chance of dying from some random cause every month, carefully eliminating exposure to a risk that might cut that by 10% doesn’t really get you very far (it extends your “half-life” from 69 months to 77, which is practically invisible in all the noise and uncertainty, and in either case your >99.5% chance of dying of something before you reach 65). Cut the death risk to 1% per year and that 10% reduction is worth 8 years (or more likely a 10% increase in the odds of making it unscathed to old age and dying from that). So paradoxically, worrying about risk only makes sense in a relatively safe environment.

    Normal human loss aversion probably enhances this (only when you are reasonably certain to survive to old age do you fell entitled to do so, which is when risk aversion really kicks in).

  11. To qualify the above a bit – the behavior I mean is micro-managing risk. Obviously even in combat individuals try and minimize the immediate and obvious risks to life and limb. But you hit the diminishing return point pretty quick – no matter how much effort you put into your foxhole, if a shell lands right in it you’re dead.

  12. Thinking a little more on my thoughts – perhaps it is also akin to the allergic response. In a state of nature, humans are naturally sensitive to risk and conditioned to minimize it. As the large, obvious risks are removed, the “danger sense” starts frantically trying to find something else to worry about.

  13. “600,000 men plus women and children wandering in Sinai for decades? And the named coves? And the empire that stretched from Egypt to the Euphrates? All bunk.”

    It’s certainly plausible that the Exodus occurred at the same time as the Late Bronze Age collapse in which many large groups of people were on the move all over the Near East.

    The united Israelite kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon probably only lasted about 100 years before it split into Israel and Judah. It may have stretched from the Negev in the south up to about Mount Hermon. A good chunk of territory but not exactly a vast empire. Farther north around the Euphrates were the Arameans. They weren’t a very bright group up there, but the Israelites took a mostly hands off approach to them.

  14. “an awful lot of effort has been put into looking for some.”

    I’m glad you were willing to make the effort that I have never found the time for.

    I’m off to Greece in September to see the tomb of Philip II and the palace of Minos. I would love to go to Troy where Schliemann believed ancient myths in Homer and found Troy and Mycenae.

    Then Arthur Evans took over after Schliemann died and found the Minoan civilization.

    All based on belief in ancient myths dismissed by most educated people at the time.

    We saw the Dead Sea Scrolls last month in Los Angeles. Some of those myths seem to work out.

    I’m glad you are willing to do the work. Of course, the Muslims are also determined to prove that none of those stories is true. There was nobody before Mohammed. Certainly no Jews.

    Good work.

  15. “’Ancient Israel’ never existed. Most of the Old Testament was presumably concocted during or after the Babylonian exile.”

    So if ancient Israel never existed, how could there have been a “Babylonian exile”? Were the “exiles” just Babylonians who suddenly started writing in Hebrew about a country they had no connection with? Making up an epic fiction out of whole cloth about a country that never existed, like Tolkien dreaming up the Lord of the Rings in his office?

    Of course, just because there was a Hebrew-speaking kingdom in what is now Israel before 586 B.C.E. does not mean all the stories in the Hebrew bible are historically accurate. Any particular story or character might be entirely fictional, and nothing in the bible is likely to be strictly historically accurate. But none of that means that the world portrayed never existed. To take parallel examples, the stories of King Arthur and Achilles may be fictional, but Britain in late antiquity and “Homeric” Greece did exist.

  16. It may be because our lives are so safe – we don’t have the resilience our ancestors had. (I’m always struck by the way the Puritans saw life as a test – so your baby’s head is smashed against a tree and most of your family is killed and the rest are taken as slaves to be, perhaps, ransomed later. But that’s good – if you pass this test, well, you’ll know that this life wasn’t a cake walk and God loves you. No, I can’t in a practical way get my mind around that, but, then, I’ve never had to.)

    Somewhat ot: Charles Murray argues that perhaps our very ease makes us less productive – most of the deaths we know are to people who have lived what we might consider full lives (the % past 60 huge next to just 75 or 100 years ago). Shakespeare’s sonnets argued that, facing mortality early, surrounded by death, the two ways to reach immortality were art (poetry) or reproduction. Art can be a relatively young man’s game, especially lyric poetry. Certainly that drive can begin early and last. And that other great solace, reproduction, well, perhaps the lack of warnings of our mortality may explain the current & great demographic shift. Our bodies still are best at reproducing at what is becoming a shorter percentage of our lives.

    Sure, 24 hour news wants to alarm, big government wants to offer its suffocating and not in the end helpful feather bed to envelop us – but some of it is our perspective, too, that has changed.

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