Walter E. Williams

John Stossel, ABC's "20/20" anchorman, has a recently released book about the various untruths we accept, many from the media and academic elite. The book is appropriately titled "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity."
 
Being a longtime media insider, Stossel is well positioned to talk about the media's gross lack of understanding that often becomes part of the conventional wisdom. Stossel gives many examples; let's look at a few.

We're sometimes presented with television scenes of starving people, and it's often blamed on overpopulation. Ted Turner warned, "There are lots of problems in the world caused by too many people." News articles warn of "the population bomb" and the "tidal wave of humanity," and people call for subsidies for birth control.

Stossel says that one writer, worrying about Niger, said that birthrates must be reduced drastically or the world will face permanent famine. Viewers and readers are left with the idea that the problem is the number of people, but that's nonsense. Niger's population density is nine people per square kilometer; however, population density in the United States is 28 per square kilometer, Japan 340, the Netherlands 484, and Hong Kong 6,621. One would have to be brain-dead to argue that high population density causes poverty and starvation. A better argument is oppressive and corrupt governments.

Outsourcing destroys good jobs, and the new jobs created are inferior hamburger-flipping jobs. This myth is created by the likes of CNN's Lou Dobbs, who said, "This country has lost the ability to feed and to clothe itself, to build its own automobiles, to provide its appliances, its electronics, its computers." CNN correspondent Lisa Sylvester chimes, "The United States has been hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs."

First, since 1992 there's been a loss of 391 million jobs; however, during those years, America created 411 million new jobs, for a net gain of 20 million. A Dartmouth University Tuck School of Business study found that companies that send jobs abroad ended up hiring twice as many workers at home. Most new jobs created are higher-paid.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that two-thirds of the 30 fastest-growing occupations require high-skilled workers such as environmental engineers, software engineers, and service jobs in education and health care. As to the gripe about the loss of manufacturing jobs, I wonder how many textile workers ever wished to themselves, "I hope my little girl grows up to be a sewing machine operator"? I'm guessing their wish is their little girl becomes a nurse, a teacher or an accountant, all service jobs.

Hardly a day goes by without some kind of warning that mankind's use of fossil fuels, especially in the U.S., is causing global warming. Stossel looks at the numbers. Half of this century's global warming happened between 1900 and 1945. Stossel asks, "If man is responsible, why wasn't there much more warming in the second half of the century? We burned much more fuel during that time."

By the way, if there's global warming, it might be a godsend. According to Harvard astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, added carbon dioxide helps plants grow. Warmer winters give farmers a longer growing season, and the warming might end the droughts in the Sahara desert.

There's another consideration. For the past 800,000 years, there have been periods of approximately 100,000 years called Ice Ages, followed by a period of 10,000 years, a period called Interglacial, followed by another Ice Age. We're about 10,500 years into the present Interglacial period, namely, we're 500 years overdue for another Ice Age. If indeed mankind's activity contributes to the planet's warming, we might postpone the coming Ice Age.

John Stossel's "Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity" exposes the false basis for the public fright often caused by an uninformed media and academic elite. Exposure is precisely what's needed because politicians use public fright as a means to gain greater control over our lives.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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