Chicken Little

In the real world, those that perform well are well paid. Innovators that increase productivity become millionaires because they solve problems and make life better for everyone else. Companies need and reward such people because the free market punishes anyone who is not competitive. Not so for the world of government and its non-profit hangers on. These people are rewarded for failure. FEMA did a bad job in New Orleans, so Congress increased its funding. The teachers unions are doing a bad job teaching basic literacy, so they demand more funding. The bigger and more intransigent the problem, the more these people are rewarded for failing to deliver a solution. Through that prism, is it any wonder that people manufacture crises, even when things are improving?

Last week, celebrity Aston Kutcher scuffled with the Village Voice over its article that eviscerated his ridiculous claim that there are hundreds of thousands of sex slaves in the US. Similarly, many cities have witnessed Slut Walks, parades of women dressed like strippers decrying sexual assault and men in general. Never mind that the FBI reports that incidents of forcible rape (the kind the Slut Walkers are protesting) have been declining steadily for twenty years. While these are serious matters, sex slavery is nearly unheard of in the US, and forcible rape has fallen by 18%. Why do celebrities and radical feminists fume over problems that are improving?

Celebrities and the PC vanguard are not used to having their positions questioned. Kutcher is organizing a Village Voice boycott because they used facts to counter his populist crusade against a largely imaginary villain. Sonya Barnett, the Slut Walk founder is an activist who could not accept the common sense advice that bad things sometimes happen to good people who hang out in bad places – they don’t deserve to be assaulted, but predators attack on the weak based on convenience. Those are just facts, not attacks on anyone’s rights. People who live in a bubble cannot tolerate even the hint that their views may be unrealistic.

Playboy model Jenny McCarthy is famous for accusing drug manufacturers of afflicting children with autism through their vaccines. Perhaps the preservative Thiomersal is the agent, but McCarthy is sure the epidemic of autism is caused by corporations. After all, autism is a growing disease. Well, probably not. Researchers have redefined autism so that it now affects people who were once just considered eccentric. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can now afflict six in one thousand people, while plain old autism was once a one in a thousand disease. The growth in autism rates is due to its aggressive diagnosis, not corporate evil.

Doctors commonly prescribe amphetamines (e.g. Adderall, Ritalin) to hyperactive children. Forty years ago, 0.5% of children were considered hyperactive, now ten times as many are diagnosed with this condition. Have children changed? No, but in order to get money for drugs and research, it helps to present a growing problem.

Mr. Kutcher’s handlers know that it makes no sense to form a national campaign protesting a few hundred sex slaves in the US, so he exaggerates the problem by a factor of 1,000. Slut Walker Ms. Barnett knows that taking common sense advice from a police officer won’t advance her feminist cause, so she turns the words of a well-intentioned policeman into a general revolt against patriarchy. Drug companies and government funded researchers know that their livelihoods depend on a growing hyperactivity problem, so they pretend that ordinary rambunctious children have a disease.

Nobody knows what Ms. McCarthy knows.

A celebrity or government funded researcher saying the sky is falling or the waters are rising proves very little considering his powerful self interest in manufacturing a crisis. It is a safe bet that reality is a lot tamer than the fevers of those who seek fame and profit by promoting the latest crisis.