Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Cycle of Ignorance

One of the great tragedies of the human existence is the way certain problems are defeated at a great cost, only to resurface later, fully rejuvenated and dangerous as ever.

Take the snake oil and patent medicine craze, where hucksters sold phony cures using a variety of tricks and specious reasoning. It went away, but several generations later it has returned under the banner "alternative medicine."

I call this phenomena the cycle of ignorance. People are victimized by some problem, such as a natural disaster or the consequences of a bogus idea, and after much suffering, they learn how to protect themselves. The problem is fixed and everything is fine, but time marches on. Those dark days are forgotten and younger generations who never experienced them fail to protect themselves. The hard-learned lessons are forgotten.

Look at HIV and AIDS rates among the gay community in America. After surviving the gruesome AIDS crisis of the 1980's and early 1990's, gay men embraced condom use and infection rates dropped off quickly. However, the younger generation of gay men never lived through the horror of the AIDS crisis and as a group, have been less careful and have seen a large spike in new cases.

Disproved economic ideas always come back. The central issue of this blog, the "Buy Local" movement, is just a rehash of Mercantalism. That bogus idea never fails to show up as a scheme to boost the economy whenever times are tough.

Price controls made the gas shortage of the 1970's worse and as soon as that generation dies, we can expect to see it considered as a solution again.

The embrace of socialism among even well-educated young people is a horrifying trend, albeit a minor one. We can expect to have Marxist prophets fling themselves in front of crowds for the rest of civilization. Hopefully, the high death count can dissuade people from giving it one more chance.

It appears that unfortunately, real-life experience is a better educator than text and testimonials. How many of the problems we bury today will be dug up by our children, like an unwitting explorer opening the cell door that imprisoned a demon.

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