Friday, February 24, 2006

You wound 'em up

O, what a tangled web we weave,
When first we practice to deceive! Sir Walter Scott

As a father to a 5 year old boy I go to my share of birthday parties. Almost invariably cake, ice cream and soda are served and the children are running about madly, sometimes yelling at the top of their lungs, having fun as only little kids can.

On occasion, the host will comment, in a surprised tone, how strange it is that the children are so animated. My normal retort to this is something along the lines of, "they're just having fun," but inside I'm thinking, "you wound 'em up, what did you expect?" Put a group of kids together in a confined space, load them up with sugar and this is what you get.

This isn't a rant against little kid parties, I love to see the smiles on their faces while they're rampaging around. Rather it is a rant along the lines of Bastiat's unforeseen negative effects, when you wind up a group of kids with sugar or more broadly a population using demagoguery, there are certain longer lasting effects.

There are two main approaches in politics, demagoguery and calm rationality. Of these, the latter takes far longer, while the former is quicker, which tends to be why that path is chosen more often. However, once you opt for demagoguery, that is, evoking emotions like fear, instead of rationality, you risk ending up with a population not unlike a group of young kids at a birthday party. If you ever wish for calm rational debate, and in this instance that seem to me to be desirable, don't be a demogogue. Once that Pandora's Box is opened, it is very tough to shut.

When I read about the brouhaha over the Dubai Ports deal I remember the President's Feb 9 speech, among other such communications with the public, detailing the allegedly foiled al-Qaeda plot to blow up LA's US Bank Tower, the coverage of which on FOX included footage of the tower blowing up from the film, Independence Day.

You wound 'em up, what did you expect?

p.s. once the population is wound up, anybody with a microphone, metaphorically writing, in or out of the country can play them