Quotation of the Day…

(Don Boudreaux)

… is from page 123 of the late Hans Rosling’s 2018 book, Factfulness:

The world seems scarier than it is because what you hear about it has been selected – by your own attention filter or by the media – precisely because it is scary.

DBx: Human nature itself – for we are creatures of natural selection in a brutal physical environment – makes us especially attuned to signs of the sorts of dangers that were commonplace five million years ago, two million years ago, one million years ago, a half-million year ago, 250,000 years ago. Even though modernity – chiefly, innovative capitalism – has significantly reduced the typical person’s exposure to such dangers, when signs of such dangers arise, or when news of such dangers spread, we naturally go on high alert. The modern world, as Rosling says, seems scarier than it is.

But of course we are not evolved to fear dangers of the sort that seldom, if ever, arose in our deep past. This fact is unfortunate, for such dangers today are real and ever-present. I have in mind here, above all, those destructive forces that undermine the emergent order that builds and sustains our modern prosperity. Indeed, because the modern, extensive division of labor is so very recent – and because its success requires that each of us be dependent upon countless strangers, many of whom speak a ‘foreign’ language and worship a different god – we are inappropriately fearful of what we can easily ‘see’ about the modern economy and are inappropriately blasé about that which is truly the greatest threat to our prosperity.

So many of us positively demand greater use of discretionary state power, ignorant of the fact that the more such power grows the more likely it is to undermine the sources of our prosperity. And even those of us who don’t exert much effort to demand more such power remain blasé about its growth.

We denizens of modernity excessively fear that which we should not, and we are excessively trusting of that which we should fear.

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