creators.com opinion web
Liberal Opinion General Opinion
David Harsanyi
David Harsanyi
10 Oct 2014
Stop Calling It Marriage Equality

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected gay marriage appeals from Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin,… Read More.

3 Oct 2014
Please Don't Vote

Most Americans don't really care about contemporary political issues or the rudimentary workings of their government.… Read More.

26 Sep 2014
Obama Goes Rogue

Of the countless lessons we've learned from liberals over the past few years, none is more critical than this:… Read More.

Fear: Our National Pastime

Comment

In a speech defending his detainee plan this week, President Barack Obama brandished his now-famous Spock-like wisdom by claiming that "our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight" after 9/11.

Whether you agree with the president's account of the nation's post-9/11 policy or not, you still might ask yourself two questions.

First off: Is it always wrong to make decisions based on fear?

Having been in New York on 9/11, I would contend that fear was not only a logical reaction to what was happening but also an unavoidable one. As John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine recently noted: "Fear was an entirely responsible response to September 11. Indeed, it was, in some ways, the only responsible response."

There is a spacious gulf between fearing reality and illogical fear. If a man pulls a gun in a crowd, you run for dear life. It is a decision of inadvertent wisdom, driven by nothing more than trepidation and self-preservation.

"Fear," the philosopher Hannah Arendt observed, "is an emotion indispensable for survival." Fear heightens our awareness and impels us to act on threats and danger — for example, some may contend, the murder of 3,000 civilians in the middle of our nation's financial capital by terrorists.

Still, admitting that fear can drive you to smart decisions doesn't mean that the Bush administration's subsequent use of fear led to prudent policy. That is up for a separate debate. Obama's framing of the issue, however, was hypocritical.

Which brings me to the second query: What president doesn't couple policy and fear? Obama, after all, has been as masterful as anyone in using dread to ram through ideologically driven legislation and silencing political opposition.

During the "debate" over the government's "stimulus" plan, the president claimed that the consequences of not passing his plan would mean the "recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs.

Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse."

To contend that the country that survived the Great Depression, two world wars, the Civil War and the social upheavals of the past century could not reverse a recession without an immense government bailout is farcical. (Moreover, almost nothing the president's economists predicted has come to fruition; the opposite has, as we still are approaching double-digit unemployment and sinking deeper despite the passage of the "stimulus" plan.)

How many times did proponents of the "recovery" package — or other recent spending plans — dispatch the bromide "something needs to be done" or claim that choosing "inaction" was tantamount to national suicide? Those aren't exactly arguments drenched in reason — panic, maybe.

But the most common brand of public policy that relies on scary talk is environmental. We need not catalog the endless end-of-days scenarios that environmentalists have been laying on us for more than three decades to understand how intrinsically they rely on fear.

Let's just point to admired professional alarmist James Hansen, who made the panic-stricken assertion recently that "President Obama's administration is the last chance to avoid flooded cities, species extinction and climate catastrophe."

Thus, logic tells us, to oppose egregious CAFE standards, cap and trade nationalizing of energy, or any plan the Obama administration supports in the area of the environment is akin to being a nihilist hellbent on destroying planet Earth.

Talk about decision-making "based upon fear rather than foresight."

Surely, at the time of 9/11, the fear of terrorism was at least as tangible and real as any long-term environmental consequence.

Of course, reasonable — and highly unreasonable — people can disagree on these issues. But let's not pretend either party is innocent when it comes to using fear to get its way.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of "Nanny State." Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com. To find out more about David Harsanyi and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2009 THE DENVER POST

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.



Comments

0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right:  
Creators.com comments policy
More
David Harsanyi
Oct. `14
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31 1
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Ben Shapiro
Ben ShapiroUpdated 22 Oct 2014
Brent Bozell
Walter Williams
Walter E. WilliamsUpdated 22 Oct 2014

8 Apr 2010 Glory to the Taxpayer

17 Mar 2010 Why Are We Still Bowing?

16 Jul 2009 Pay Up! Utopia Ain't Free, Ya Know