Fear Is Your Enemy

Inflation and other things we find wrong with our society and economy result from fear. Fears are being amplified by people anxious to lead us. It is not hard to see their ambitions for society, and our aspirations for ourselves are quite different. Organizations like The World Economic Forum have huge ideas and no experience with them. So far, Klaus Schab has experience organizing conferences. I don’t see how that provides the necessary skill set to change how we organize civilization.

I think the overarching ambition is more straightforward. People like power and prestige. Politics is a fine way to get that, and there are many clamouring for the opportunity. The question we must answer is to what extent does their ambition overlap with our needs and wants. We can see the talk. It is not so easy to see that overlap.

Nearly 100 years ago. H.L. Mencken addressed the point of politicians using fear,

“Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

Former Obama Advisor Rahm Emanuel was more direct, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” His reasoning is that in a crisis, the government can usurp power and control they can get at no other time.

Fear is a weak counsellor, and we should be very cautious making decisions while it is present.

I think Marie Currie’s advice is more practical. It, too, is almost 100 years old.

“Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”

People who understand dangerous things tend not to fear them. If you are a specialist in venomous reptiles, you don’t fear them, but you do respect them. You know their capabilities, their triggers, and their limits. You can work with things you understand.

There are several noisy causes in our current society, and many people are trying to benefit from them. In the United States, and in no particular order, there are:

  1. Ukraine
  2. Inflation
  3. Systemic racism
  4. Job security
  5. Climate change
  6. Hydrocarbon fuell industry
  7. Border control
  8. Gun control
  9. Internal and external terrorism
  10. Opioids
  11. Nuclear energy
  12. The military and economic rise of China
  13. The destruction of institutional trust. FDA, CDC, universities, churches, the presidency, the congress, and the courts
  14. The decline of the family
  15. Coronavirus
  16. MRNA vaccines, especially for children.
  17. Control of rare earth minerals
  18. Food shortages
  19. Too little fertilizer
  20. Fuel prices. Farms and transportation of goods  particularly

Without using political platitudes, could you deliver a 10-minute impromptu talk about the nature of any of the problems listed and what solutions would make sense over time? We know little more than sound bites and talking points and so have no depth. We don’t even know good questions. For most, the talk would be impossible.

Suppose you decide to study any of them in depth. Do you think you could find objective and verifiable information? You probably could, but it would be difficult. The valuable information is mashed up with the propaganda. You need wild skills to sort it out. For example, how would you decide whether a particular study was valid or not? Who could you trust? Most commentators know very little. Their research involves reading a summary a writer put together after talking to a scientist, trying to dumb down what they did in their study. Most scientists have doubts. Writers look for the sensational, not the doubts.

I have come to the point where I don’t trust scientists or scholars. It just occurred to me that I might if I talked to them directly rather than through the journalist-commentator filter. The late Nobel Physics Prize Laureate Murray Gell-Mann has pointed out that he could read a newspaper account about some point in physics and see its limitations and where it is wrong in seconds. Turning the page to another topic, he tended to believe what he read. Once he noticed that, he learned to be skeptical of everything.

Be a skeptic. Demand that politicians, bureaucrats, and media people show their work. If they cannot or will not, how can you trust them?

The takeaway

Learn more, understand more, fear less, and trust no one who benefits from something that makes no sense to you. If it is hard to understand, it is because it has been built that way. Seek simple answers, with proof of work attached.

Participate in fixing it. That is a part of being a citizen.  Edmund Burke had a few thoughts on the subject:

  1. The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.
  2. No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
  3. Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.
  4. There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men. 
  5. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don.shaughnessy@gmail.com.


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