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The Risk is that Civilization Will Be Destroyed Under the Pretense of Protecting Public Health

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:


The headline of today’s report on a new policy unveiled by the Department of Health and Human Services accurately reads “Climate Change to Be Treated as Public-Health Issue.”

The policy change triggering this headline is as predictable as it is ominous.

Politicians and bureaucrats – assisted by mavens in the media – have learned over the past 18 months that hysterical assertions of imminent danger to the public health are sufficient to frighten the populace into abject submissiveness. The actual degree of danger relative to that of the countless other risks that we humans routinely confront, as well as the likelihood that the coercive measures imposed to ostensibly protect us from the trumpeted danger will succeed, are irrelevant. All that matters is that some risk be portrayed as posing an unprecedentedly lethal threat to the public health. If such a portrayal is successful, there are no limits to the amount of freedom and dignity that ordinary people will sacrifice in exchange for the promise of protection from the putative danger – and also, of course, no limits to the amount of power that government officials will seize and exercise under the pretense of supplying such protection.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030