When Will They Listen To Eric?

  By VennerRoad, 12th Jul 2017

Eric Sevareid died twenty-five years ago. His wise words are still unheeded.

Eric Sevareid

The American journalist Eric Sevareid came up with what is known as Sevareid’s Law which says in a nutshell, the chief cause of problems is solutions.One might affix to this another well-known observation, the law of unintended consequences, and also the famous dictum of George Santayana that those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it, because time and time and time again, especially in the political arena, we see the same mistakes being made, and no one who matters doing anything to address the folly. Let us begin with prohibition.

Everyone knows the abuse of alcohol can have bad effects: road accidents, crimes of violence; many people, including the actor Kevin Lloyd, have literally drunk themselves to death. So why not ban it and cure the problem, right? In Saudi Arabia or Iran where there are deep social mores against what is viewed as immorality, no problem, but what happened when alcohol was banned in the United States?

The Prohibition Era was ushered in on January 17, 1920. And the country stopped drinking, right? Prohibition was repealed thirteen years later; it had been an absolute disaster. The reasons are well known. The Americans were not teetotal Arabs but people for whom alcohol was a major plank of their social lives. Law or no law, they wanted to drink, and the result was the importation of illegal alcohol, the transportation of it, the brewing of it, the emergence of criminal networks to cater for the demand, the undermining and corruption of local law enforcement - police officers and politicians - and even murders as turf wars erupted between competing gangs.

Ten, twenty, thirty and more years on, the lesson about prohibition had been learned, America would not go down the same road again, right? Wrong. If Americans had learned the lesson with alcohol, they had not learned it with drugs. Leaving aside arguments for medical marijuana, nobody in his right mind should smoke, ingest or inject recreational drugs, but millions of Americans use them regularly. Drug prohibition has led to an even more serious undermining of law and order, especially among blacks. The emergence of crack-cocaine led to calls for Draconian sentences on dealers. Certainly this substance needed to be dealt with, in January 2013, triple murderess Kimberly McCarthy was executed in Texas. One of her victims was an elderly neighbour; McCarthy bluffed her way into the woman’s home, beat her to death with a blunt instrument, then cut off a finger to remove a ring which she pawned to buy crack. McCarthy had been a nursing assistant, an unlikely candidate to commit such terrible crimes, but people who have serious drug addictions have a long history of fraud, theft, violent robbery, selling their bodies, and senseless murders.

Opponents of drug prohibition argue that the cure is worse than the disease, that if crack, cocaine, heroin...were legalised, the price would fall, the quality would increase, and that drug-related crime would all but disappear. This may be a foolishly optimistic view, but it is clear that America and most of the rest of the world is continuing to repeat the folly of the Volstead Act. In some countries, drug smuggling can attract the death penalty, yet such are the sums of money involved that some people are still prepared to take the risk.

Another political issue in which the solution is an even bigger problem is foreign policy. The current refugee and terror crisis was caused largely by the lack of foresight of Western power brokers. They decided to remove two dictators - Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi - in order to export Western so-called democracy to the Middle East. Leaving aside any ulterior motives - like oil! So what did they think would happen? Using the pretext of Saddam having weapons of mass destruction, they invaded Iraq and “liberated” it. Bad as that was, there was little if any pretext for the overthrow of Gaddafi, who had once supported terror groups like the IRA but had been brought back into the family of nations by years of diplomacy.

Like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi was a gangster rather than a totalitarian, as long as people didn’t oppose him, they were left largely alone, and he was certainly not unpopular with most of his subjects. Removing him created a power vacuum that was filled by people who didn’t want to simply hold onto power but to export terror. The ongoing refugee crisis would never have happened if those responsible for the overthrow of Gaddafi had stopped to consider the consequences. And how has the West dealt with this crisis?

Opening the borders and allowing refugees from Syria and who knows where else to flood into Europe may appear like a great humanitarian gesture, but yet again it ignores human nature, because it encourages more and more people to follow in their footsteps, and in leaky boats. Left wing idiots may cry racism but how many refugees is Europe to take: five million, ten million, a hundred million? That figure may sound absurd, but it won’t sound half as absurd ten years from now.

The best way to approach even apparently relatively simple problems of this nature is to treat them as you would a computer program. A small alteration to a block of code early on may cause unexpected outcomes including inaccurate calculations and at worse crash the machine. The same consideration should be given to problems on a micro-scale; how many times does someone cut corners to save money and end up spending a great deal more - like driving without proper insurance then paying a hefty fine?

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