Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Monday, May 07, 2007

CATO values money more than lives.

Alan Reynolds needs to check his math when considering the numbers related to inevitable mass deaths from infectious diseases like Avian flu, a weaponized smallpox attack or something worse (The fear industry, May 6, 2007).

His first error is using past statistics to predict future death tolls. That’s like using pre 9-11 suicide airliner crashes to predict future death tolls from such tactics. Or, using pre 1981 statistics for predicting the future number of Americans who will die from some ‘new’ not yet identified acquired immune deficiency. Or, predicting New Orleans hurricane death tolls assuming pre Katrina conditions would last forever.

Pandemics, terrorist attacks and hurricanes happen. And as time progresses with the exponentially accelerating power of technology and mass movement of people, goods and bads…we must invest in preparing for the worst.

Unimaginable cost savings can be gained from investments in prevention even when threats aren’t imminent. In the early 1970s’ no American children were dying from smallpox. Still, the US invested federal dollars in the global eradication of this extremely lethal infectious disease. Since its eradication American taxpayers no longer had to vaccinate our own children and have since saved well over $600 for every one dollar invested in the global eradication effort.

Should the weaponized smallpox that the former Soviet Union created ever be released hundreds of millions of people could die. The Soviets bioengineered smallpox to be even more lethal than the original disease that killed three times as many people in the last 100 years than all the wars and revolutions of that same time period. Investing now in the creation of safe and effective smallpox vaccines is vital.

Over 60,000 Americans died last year in hospitals from infectious diseases they didn’t walk in with. A large number of these lives could have been saved if far greater investments were made in improving out nation’s Antibiotic arsenal. If Mr. Reynolds wants to save tax payers money he should consider advocating the end of federal funding for missile defense. The chance of such defense actually working is even smaller than the likely hood that some nation would commit suicide by launching one against us. And, then of course, there is the massive waste of federal dollars trying to stabilize a foreign region because we are dependent upon it’s oil. Massive taxpayer investment in alternative energies would yield even greater future savings in both dollars and lives.

Not investing billions more on biosecurity is worse than stupid. It’s suicidal. But in Reynolds own words it’s “irrelevant” if “these programs save even one life”. It’s the “millions spent” that bothers him. At least we are clear what he values. I thought the CATO institute values freedom. Freedom isn’t free. And, its certainly not worth much if millions of people are bleeding to death out of each of their bodies’ orifices.

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