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That Which Has Costs Often Has Benefits

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Deborah Hahn writes: “Until the damaged BP well in the Gulf of Mexico is capped, please publish daily a front-page picture of wildlife covered in oil, in misery, dying, unable to be cleaned” (Letters, June 26).  Ms. Hahn believes that “such pictures are needed to educate the public” about the “horrors of what oil accidents do to our fellow creatures.”

Oil accidents are indeed horrible.  But they are the very visible downside of a product with an enormous upside – an upside so important and ubiquitous that, ironically, it has become invisible.  It is to us as water is to fish.

So an even greater danger now is an economy polluted by a gusher of panic-driven crude legislation.  To counter this danger, please also publish daily a picture of oil’s neglected benefits – such as people still alive because of pharmaceuticals and medical devices; men and women healthy because dangerous bacteria were killed by ammonia or kept contained by plastics; children and grandparents smiling because they’re able to visit each other having driven over roads made of asphalt or flown in airplanes powered by aviation fuel; your readers enjoying your paper (printed with ink!) because they wear eye’glasses’ made of plexiglass.

What really needs more media attention are the many marvels that, because they are so common, are taken for granted.

Donald J. Boudreaux