And the award goes to…
[T]he next time you hear serious-sounding people explaining the need for fiscal austerity, try to parse their argument. Almost surely, you’ll discover that what sounds like hardheaded realism actually rests on a foundation of fantasy, on the belief that invisible vigilantes will punish us if we’re bad and the confidence fairy will reward us if we’re good. And real-world policy — policy that will blight the lives of millions of working families — is being built on that foundation.
I was reminded yesterday by a podcast that the public’s propensity to believe in things that are flatly untrue is not harmless, as many would have us believe. For example, if a homeopathic remedy is completely ineffective, but belief in its effectiveness prompts a cancer patient to eschew science-based medicine and pursue it anyway (and not coincidentally empty the patient’s bank account) it is difficult to overstate the harm that results. Rick Perlstein did an excellent job chronicling the massive intersection between conservative religion and the appeal of predatory get-rich-quick schemes and impossible cures for chronic diseases (‘“Reverse Crippling Arthritis in 2 Days,” “Clear Clogged Arteries Safely & Easily—without drugs, without surgery, and without a radical diet,” and “High Blood Pressure Cured in 3 Minutes . . . Drop Measurement 60 Points.”’). That piece further cemented my view that a widespread lack of skepticism and failure to grasp the value of reason, evidence, and the basic principles of the scientific method are harmful, not just inexcusably childish and annoying.
After years of shrieking that the Bond Vigilantes are going to eat our country if we do not take a hatchet to our meager social safety net, these terrible creatures have mysteriously failed to arrive. At some point people really ought to ask themselves whether there is any more evidence for these flying monkeys than there is for the Tooth Fairy. Or for the resurrection of Jeezis Haploid Keereist. Or for the proposition that injecting urine cures cancer.
SPOILER ALERT: Nope.