Friday, June 09, 2006

Lying by omissions

John Stossel has written a book which has a good title : "Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel--Why Everything You Know Is Wrong" . I read a transcript of an interview with him about his book, and considering his silliness about overpopulation, I would suspect anything he says.
He said "All those new babies are brains that may cure cancer some day."
Of course, all those new babies are brains that may create a biological weapon that devastates the earth. Many medicines come from other species. We may have already driven to extinction the species that this hypothetical "brain" would use to cure cancer.
He said "The population density of New Jersey is equal to that of India. And New Jersey is doing OK. Hong Kong is one of the most prosperous places in the world, one of the nicest places to live, has 20 times as many people per square foot as India."
I don't have the time to investigate whether these figures are accurate, but even if they are, they are misleading. Places that have such high population densities depend on much larger places, that have low population densities, for food, oil, lumber, water, steel, concrete, rubber, and other resources. Places like Hong Kong import most of their food and other resources from elsewhere. Much of the earth's land is desert, not suitable for farming, and areas that are suitable for farming are losing top soil, when they are not being covered with buildings and roads. With the number of people we currently have, we have already caused the extinction of many species, and greatly decimated the population of many species of ocean species, including fish and whales. We put such quantities of chemicals such as freon into the air, that we destroyed large areas of the ozone layer that protects us from ultraviolet radiation from the sun, before we realized what we were doing and cut back on the use of these chemicals. We put polluted the air with acid rain, damaging our forests, art, and the outside of our own buildings. We have polluted a large percentage of the waters in the U.S. so badly that they are not safe to swim in, or eat fish from. We have put so much greenhouse gases into our air that we putting ourselves at danger. We have probably already been damaged from these effects - stronger hurricanes, droughts, floods.

Stossel made an apology to his audience in 2000 after it was discovered that some of the research for a segment he ran discrediting organic foods was misleadingly and incorrectly cited; in fact, he referred to studies that didn't even exist.

Stossel is a libertarian. He believes free enterprise and private property will cure all ills, and government is the source of all evil. But he ignores the fact that for the sake of immediate profits, farmers in some areas of the country are irrigating their crops with water that has a high mineral content, and is killing the soil. He ignores the fact that for the sake of profits, drug and car manufacturers have hidden the fact that their products were lethal.

What is needed is balance. Too much government power is indeed bad. But too little is also bad. Parts of the world where there is no functioning government are not nice places to live! And in fact, it is because of the high population density that he defends that we need government. But that is a subject I'll talk about more another time.

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