Here’s an interesting observation. It’s from an excerpt from Steven Levitt’s book Freakonomics.

Fear best thrives in the present tense. That is why experts rely on it; in a world that is increasingly impatient with long-term processes, fear is a potent short-term play. Imagine that you are a government official charged with procuring the funds to fight one of two proven killers: terrorist attacks and heart disease. Which do you think the members of Congress will open up the coffers for? The likelihood of any given person being killed in a terrorist attack are infinitessimally smaller than the likelihood that the same person will clog up his arteries with fatty food and die of heart disease. But …

I noted a cynical blog post the other day (I forget where) that both Bush and Obama have strategically worked this principle to push through their pet projects & ideologies. (Incidentally, Obama seems to be better at it than Bush – he managed in his first month to spend what took Bush eight years.) George Soros endorses this viewpoint in his book The Bubble of American Supremacy. He argues therein that Bush opportunistically used the fear generated by 9/11 to further his “misguided pursuit of American supremacy”. Current media-fanned fears of hyperinflation, deflation, systemic economic collapse, depression and financial Armageddon has, in effect, given Obama a very large, if not, open check book.

Revert back to the opening quote from Freakonomics, and I think a pattern emerges – statistics, fear and manipulation.

So it was with interest I read in a blog post today that “There’s still risk it could all blow up.” These were the words of AIG CEO Edward Liddy when he testified before the House Financial Services Subcommittee yesterday regarding the AIG bonuses debacle. Note the catastrophic language.

Hmmm, not sure what that has to do with bonuses. With so many out of work finance gurus, surely these AIG bonus recipients would be grateful to just have a job. Seems like some just took the money and ran!

p.s. Regarding Freakonomics, why do we always remember Steven (Levitt) and forget Stephen (Dubner)?

Photo by Muffet

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