Elliot Eisenberg, Ph.D.
November 1, 2019
So there I am, at home, relaxing in my study in the midst of thinking about the lousy economy, the anemic number of housing starts, the troubles with Fannie and Freddie and the soaring budget deficit. Deeply concerned by all this, I close my eyes, place my feet on the hassock, turn on the radio and wait for some soothing music to wash over me and refresh my tired, stressed soul.
But before the music starts comes a public service announcement or two. Oh goodie! The first tells me not to feel too secure because a Fukushima-sized tsunami is just a jolt away, and the second says that my state is suffering through the driest spring since water was invented, and that if we do not stop using water by late tomorrow morning the state will, pure and simple, dry up.
Another spot reminds listeners to exercise more and eat less because obesity and diabetes are quickly becoming problems for both adults and children. Yet another spot tells the population that they are eligible for government compensation if they lived in City X or City Y between 1942 and 1955. And yet another one starts with the sweet bark of a dog but then turns sinister and warns that rabies kills and ends with an ominous admonition; A dog not immunized is a dangerous dog!
Hearing a dog off in the distance I instantly flinch, wondering if it had its shots and worrying if I should ask the owner and concerned about what I might do if I were to see it coming right at me.
Exhausted, I turn off the radio because I know what is coming next and I am already too stressed out; the 30-second spot about how hundreds of people die each year in accidents in their home – falling off ladders and into bathtubs. This is followed by another menacing spot about the need to pay attention at the wheel; not to text and drive, not to smoke, not to do drugs, not to eat raw fish, to get immunized , to adopt a pet, and on and agonizingly on.
With all this evil lurking in every room, every animal, and every driver, who wants to leave the house? Then again how can you stay home when radon will kill you, your ducts are full of allergens, and an al-Qaeda terror attack is right around the corner?
These radio spots represent the voice of government regulation saying “if there is not enough for you to worry about, consider this…” That’s right, if the thought of killer bees headed your way is not enough to shake you up, keep in mind the neighbor’s dog – suffering from rabies and roaming around outside, unleashed.
And while I very much want to protect myself and my family from harm, it just might be the case that I am the best judge of how to do that and that using my tax dollars to remind me of every possible harmful substance and bad outcome is not just plain foolish but downright harmful, wasteful and panic inducing.
I know, every government agency has a budget and the more they spend the better they look. The problem is who checks to see if these PSAs do any good? No one! So we end up spending precious resources pumping out “helpful” information with no idea of the outcome. This is like going to a restaurant and not paying attention to the cost or quality of the meal but being very satisfied because the meal was expensive.
What I would instead like to see government do is spend our money based on cost-benefit analysis and with respect for the taxpayer. If that means putting out a few PSAs fine, if it means hiring more policemen OK, and if it means cutting taxes so I can spend more of my money the way I see fit, awesome. But the notion that by simply flooding the airwaves with PSAs we will all stop whatever it is, is well, nonsense.
Given all this terrifying claptrap about what to do, what not to do and what to watch out for, it’s amazing, actually, that people are as normal as they are, what with all the threats (real and government induced) to lose sleep over - terrorists, insufficient antioxidants, drought, rabies, fear of fluoride, a lack of vitamins, H1N1, Avian flu, fear of injections, rare cancers, tapeworm and creeping socialism.
So while government may well continue to assail us with expensive alarmist nonsense, there is a wide swath of normalcy in the middle that is remarkable, considering everything with which we are bombarded. The problem is I am worried sick that with a few more government sponsored PSAs the healthy normal middle will disappear! And to solve that problem, all we need is a 30-second spot……
Elliot Eisenberg, Ph.D. is President of GraphsandLaughs, LLC and can be reached at Elliot@graphsandlaughs.net. His daily 70 word economics and policy blog can be seen at www.econ70.com. You can subscribe and have the blog delivered directly to your email by visiting the website or by texting the word “BOWTIE” to 22828.