People who lay awake with worries about running out of oil, or gas at $5 a gallon or somesuch bring Mrs. Shook to mind.
She was our neighbor when I was a kid. She had no television. So she came to our house Thursday nights. To watch wrestling.
My brother and I would spend half an hour persuading her the wrestling was fake. We explained how they pulled punches. And pretended to be injured. We assured her nobody got hurt. And that each match was a staged performance. And no more real than a soap opera.
And every week she came around to agreeing. But as soon as the wrestling came on she burst into tears. With every faked uppercut, every body slam she writhed on the couch. ďOooh, that must, it must have hurt him. Oh, how terrible. How will he ever recover? Boo hoo.Ē
No matter how desperate his situation, her hero always recovered, of course. He always won. He showed no bruises, bled no blood.
She learned nothing. Saw no pattern. Next week, same drill.
Recently people fretted over gas at $3 a gallon. ďItís going to go to $5! Itís going to bring down our economy. Itís going to plunge us into a depression. Itís a conspiracy. The giant oil companies have manipulated the prices. They are gouging us.Ē
In short, they see no more pattern than Mrs. Shook did. For, after all, gas prices have shot up before. World oil prices have shot up. And when they did, folks must have heard all that fretting before. They heard economists explain that oil prices are not manipulated by oil companies. They are set by supply and demand. And by OPEC, trying to anticipate same.
Mrs. Shook cried that her wrestlers must be suffering pain. The worriers cry that big oil is conspiring to gouge us. No matter how many times theyíve been through this. And seen oil and gas prices fall off again.
CNNís Jack Cafferty insisted the oil companies conspired to raise prices. And now they are conspiring to lower prices, to help Republicans retain power in Congress. For that sort of thinking, Jack should have his studio padded out. He may have a future in announcing wrestling matches.
Every ten years or so we see innumerable stories about how the world is running out of oil. And that this time it is for real.
And every eleven years we find out it ainít so. One Saudi oil baron recently assured us the world has used up no more than 18 percent of available oil. Start worrying in about 120 years, he advised.
Donít the worriers ever see the pattern? Donít they ever recall or read about the previous oil scare? Paul Erlich has made a living telling us what weíre going to run out of. Jimmy Carterís crew published a huge book when he left office. It too told us what we would run out of by the year 2000. Both Erlich and Carter were abysmally wrong. Today we have more of virtually everything they told us we would have less of.
Cannot worriers see that the doomsdayers are batting close to zero? Do they learn nothing from the failed predictions of the last fifty years?
Early this year the worriers told us we would be savaged by hurricanes this year. Hurricanes are getting worse and more numerous, they assured us. Itís global warming, of course.
The season is about over. We have had fewer tropical storms than normal. And only five of them grew strong enough to be called hurricanes. Canít the worriers see the pattern?
The pattern is that when doomsdayers predict horrible things we almost always get the opposite.
Maybe Iíll give Al Gore the Mrs. Shook Award.
From Tom... as in Morgan.
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