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Posted by on Apr 23, 2008 in Politics | 4 comments

Why we overreact

John Stossel offers some useful perspective in his column The Sky’s Not Falling. His point of view is that using the terms “Crisis” and “Disaster” regarding the credit situation is a bit of an overreaction and may be motivated by an inclination to impose regulation on the free market.

I value this point of view in much the same way I appreciate libertarians like Rep. Ron Paul. They play an essential role in a deliberative process by asking if doing nothing is better than doing something. I wish folks like them had been more persuasive when arguing that doing nothing would have been a far better choice than invading Iraq. And likewise lowering taxes on the wealthy. But sometimes reasonable people conclude that some intervention is appropriate to head off what they believe is an avoidable tragedy: shifting towards renewable energy, Universal Health Care, a compromise on immigration policy, and even regulations on the financial industry to minimize recklessness that would result in global recession.

But unfortunately reasonable pleas for thoughtful adjustments go unheard for reasons as understandable as too many other emergencies going on, or as sinister as special interests like the Oil industry swapping global health for an advantage for their stockholders. And when the opportunities for small corrections are passed we are increasingly faced with bigger and bigger challenges with fewer and fewer incremental remedies. It is possible that we may soon pass the point when failure to correct climate change will endanger the wellbeing of our grandchildren.

So sometimes reasonable people just have to “overreact” to get the attention of those not looking ahead on the road. Those people who are too preoccupied with short term material rewards at the expense of long term health and survival. This may be one way of explaining the dramatic surge in Democratic voter registration and donations. Many more of us passive moderates have finally decided we have to overreact.

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