Benny Peiser / 26.11.2007 / 17:42 / 0 / Seite ausdrucken

Scared to Death: Why scares are costing us the Earth

First, a declaration of interest: this reviewer has in recent years published two books, one of which contains a chapter on “scares” and the other has “scares” in the subtitle. Even worse: he holds these two authors in high regard as heroes of the resistance, who cheerfully accept the obloquy that accompanies that role.

Their latest production is a typically detailed examination of the phenomenon that characterises our age more than any other, and one that returns us to the primitive state of our superstitious ancestors with their witch hunts, the global scare.

Authors such as your reviewer and James Le Fanu have contended that there was a sea change in western society that occurred in about 1982 and, sure enough, that is where this account begins. That was the year that the acronym AIDS was adopted and, by one of those ironic quirks of coincidence, on the very month that this book was issued the UN has finally admitted what the sceptics always knew, that it had grossly exaggerated the scale and nature of the epidemic. From that time on all hell broke loose, with an unending sequence of “disasters” – killer eggs, listeria hysteria, mad cows and human CJD, E. coli, The Millennium Bug, Satanic abuse, speed kills,  lead,  passive smoking, asbestos and finally the big one – Global Warming. This account spells out the progression, a lengthy tragicomedy of irony, incompetence and sheer perfidy. Each scare is analysed in terms of the pushers and the blockers through various stages.

There were so many factors that were common to these outbreaks, not least in the consequences. There was draconian legislation, the mass closure of viable productive businesses, multiplication of officials supported by the taxpayer, the enrichment of lawyers, stepwise erosion of human liberty etc., all based on little or no evidence. There were mysterious multipliers, in which one case became millions, as with the early scare of salmonella in eggs (in fact, subsequent extensive surveys failed to produce any cases at all).

Beneath it all, like the insistent beat of the ground bass of a poignant passacaglia, is the matter of cost. A billion here, seven billion there, and they are only the direct costs; even more significant is the continual shift of labour and resources from the economically productive sector to the parasitic elements of the regulatory system and the compensation culture. Have no doubt about it: scares have robbed this generation of the age of prosperity and freedom that was their birthright, for which their forefathers fought and died.

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