Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Media Help Exaggerate Threats

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

The Media Help Exaggerate Threats

Article excerpt

The tragic earthquake that killed more than 25,000 people in India was not as large as the 1989 earthquake in California that killed fewer than a hundred people.

The difference is that Californians are affluent enough to build their homes, buildings and other structures to earthquake-resistant standards. The poverty-stricken people of India are not. Moreover, California has far more rescue equipment, more motor vehicles to rush people to hospitals and far better medical facilities waiting in those hospitals.

Wealth is one of the greatest savers of lives, whether in earthquakes or in a thousand other ways. Put differently, stifling the production of wealth can cost more lives than many of the things that "safety" fanatics are creating hysteria about.

One of the grandiloquent phrases used to silence those who complain about the economic costs of government policies to reduce some remote danger is this: "It's worth it, no matter what it costs, if it saves just one human life!"

This kind of talk may allow the anointed to feel nobler than thou, but stifling the economy with safety regulations will itself cost human lives. A faster growing economy can easily save more lives than trying to stamp out some danger that affects very few people.

Neither the public nor the media seem to be aware of how many professional hysteria-mongers there are with a vested interest in exaggerating every remote danger and inventing other dangers out of thin air. Unfortunately, the media's own vested interest in hype makes it too willing to amplify whatever hysteria will sell more newspapers or add more viewers.

Remember the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant "disaster" of 1979? Since then, scientific study after scientific study has failed to show how anybody suffered any concrete physical injury from the nuclear power plant accident, which is routinely referred to as a "disaster" in the media.

The only substantiated damage to people has been through stress and two deaths of people trying to flee the area. In short, more people were hurt by the media hysteria than by the accident itself.

"Phantom Risk" is the apt title of a new book published at M. …

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