Thursday, March 18, 2004

Just a Random Thought:

In the age of television, people have been conditioned to think that something that can be photographed is more real than that which can not.

Case in point: the steel tarrifs President Bush pushed through a couple of years ago. A video camera can be pointed at a dilapidated steel factory and the workers filing out of it with a voice over telling us that these men will not be returning for another shift. One can see the line and be told that 800 men at this one plant will be out of work. The result, hue and cry for government to Do Something to either prevent the plant from shutting down or to prevent the workers from suffering too badly.

On the other hand, tariffs are enacted and the price of steel goes up. Thousands of small to midsize companies, running thin margins to begin with due to tight competition, have to cut loose four or five employees apiece in order to stay afloat. The thousands put out of work due to the tariffs are diffused across the country. No plants go under and there are no lines of workers all in one place to point a camera at. No hue and cry, no single legislator with enough voters discomfitted to make a point about, yet, by shear number of unemployed, no one can doubt that the tariffs have made things worse.

With no pictures, however, how do you convince people of that?

(So I may have lifted this line of argument from Tom Clancy's The Bear and The Dragon. Its been a couple of years since I read it, and the point is still a good one.)

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