Thursday, February 09, 2017

Strongmen Are What Make the World a Dangerous Place

There is a good market right now for fear entrepreneurs who sell the idea that the world is a dangerous place.  There are always such nostrums on the market - and politicians ready to cash in.  For most of the last three generations since World War II the forces of order have kept the fear mongers and would-be strongmen in check.

But now the last generation to remember the rise of the strongmen is nearly gone.  Younger people take orderly institutions for granted.  They do not see that the rule of law is fragile, even in old republics like ours.  The permanently fearful minority allies with the short-term partisans, and the next thing you know we have elected a strongman.

All across the democratic world, right-wing nationalists challenge the governments which have made the world safer since VJ Day. All across the Muslim world, right-wing nationalists launch terror attacks on the democratic nations that keep invading them, while threatening their local authoritarian governments who make peace with the invaders.

When the strongmen come to power, the structural logic of their ideology makes them push for more danger and more war as proof that they were right about the world being dangerous.  And the more danger they create, they more they can suspend normal checks and balances and consolidate all power in themselves.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Measles Eradicated in the Americas

On Tuesday mornings I get to talk on WKYB, Danville's country radio station. This was our topic today.

The global effort to eradicate disease is one of the most powerful arguments that things are getting better.

Smallpox has been wiped out.  Polio is on the verge, if not already eradicated.

And now we get word that measles has been eradicated in the wild in the Western Hemisphere. There are still occasional outbreaks, but they come from outside.

There is a new danger now from the people who do not vaccinate their children, in the foolish belief that the vaccines themselves cause autism.  These folks, as well as some anti-vaccine faith healing groups, endanger us all by lowering our "herd immunity."

Nonetheless, the sustained and coordinated effort of international health organizations, governments, charities, and local public health workers has achieved this great good for our part of the world.