Are all things best left alone?

ImageIn Candide, Voltaire explores the idea that the status quo represents the best of all possible worlds. Candide’s adventures suggest that the status quo may be anything but good. In his column Saturday, March 1, in the Elmira Star-Gazette (“As society changes, codgers freak out”), John Stossel goes further. He suggest that whatever has happened or may happen can only be for the best.

(In his column, Stossel attacks his fellow right-wing pundit, Bill O’Reilly, as an old codger freaking out over what’s new–that’s hillarious.)

Let’s consider Stossel’s argument; Stossel asserts:

  • Kids today play violent video games, but youth violence is down.
  • Kids can’t communicate in traditional ways, but cell phones are the modern, advanced form of communication.
  • People want to take “recreational” drugs; so what?
  • Kids can’t avoid exposure to pornography, but teen pregnancy is down (not in Chemung County).

Some of the above confuse correlation with causation. if pornography is up while teen pregnancy is down, that doesn’t suggest that easy access to pornography helps reduce teen pregnancy.

Stossel concludes:

“The danger is that the outrage undermines perspective. It creates a false impression of how risky the present is, and it fuels unnecessary, freedom-killing regulations.”

Stossel is telling us that whatever comes to pass, however bad it may seem, must be for the best.  If we intervene, it can only make things worse.

Some of what Stossel says is true.  Many things are better today than they were in the past, the “good old days.” We would expect this; human activity ought to result in progress. Kids, for generation after generation, have heard that they are in the worst kids ever and that can’t be true. But it isn’t true that, left alone, things must get better–that’s a very pessimistic view of human potential.

© William Hungerford – March 2014

About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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21 Responses to Are all things best left alone?

  1. Deb Meeker says:

    So then Stossel must be against interfering with women’s right to choose birth control and abortion, and bad American diets are just fine ( our population is getting larger.. in numbers and girth)? Maybe he even thinks smoking is fine since doctors used to prescribe it. Who knows?

    I liked the movie “Pleasantville”. A fantasy about the status quo, and how all appears lost to those who couldn’t imagine or do more than fear any change in their lives. I’d be happy to send Stossel a copy to see what he thought.


  2. BOB McGILL says:

    Dec 29, 2008 · … a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S … Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S. In Moscow, Igor … the map of the United States …


  3. whungerford says:

    Bob, I wonder what connection you see between the possible breakup of the US and John Stossel’s libertarian views. I do know that some advocate that Western NY should seek independence. They may not realize that it would likely be a third world country if that would come to pass?


  4. whungerford says:

    ” I’m hardly what I would call conservative. I happen to think consenting adults should be able to do just about anything they want. I think prostitution should be permitted. (If quarterbacks and boxers make money with their bodies, why can’t a woman make money with hers?) I believe homosexuality is perfectly natural, that the drug war should be ended, that flag-burning and foul language should be tolerated, and most abortion should be legal.” — John Stossel


  5. Deb Meeker says:

    He must get tired of contradicting himself, as I do. To mouth words, is quite different than walking the talk. I don’t call him a Liberal, Conservative, or other label, except perhaps Confused Attention Seeker.


  6. BOB MCGILL says:…/petition-to-secede-states…‎Cached
    SimilarThe Huffington PostLoading…Nov 13, 2012 – States petition to secede from union – CBS News · 27 States …. Could we allow those who want to get away from our government opt out? Then …


  7. BOB MCGILL says:…/states-petition-to-sece…CBS NewsLoading…Nov 14, 2012
    They don’t want to take their country back. They just want to leave it behind. As the dust settles in the wake of President Obama’s decisive …


  8. BOB MCGILL says:‎Cached
    SimilarWikipediaLoading…By November 14, 2012 all 50 US states have had petitions filed by their citizens. … States. The question of secession (from the Union) has had a long history in …


  9. BOB MCGILL says:



  10. whungerford says:

    What’s your point, Bob? Your views may be interesting; I wish I knew what they are.


  11. BOB MCGILL says:

    We’re all tired of you contradicting yourself too.
    Read your statement again REAL SLOW,
    ” He must get tired of contradicting himself, as I do.”
    That’s all you people do is contradict yourselves !!!!!!


  12. BOB MCGILL says:

    At this point I’ve come to realize that conversing with you is a waste of time. If and when you find your way back to planet EARTH, let me know.


  13. whungerford says:

    What conversing, Bob? You seem to have an interest in succession, but haven’t said what it is.


  14. solodm says:

    Good catch Bob. Poorly worded sentences can confuse.


  15. BOB MCGILL says:

    I have no intrest in succession ! It is the moral,and ethical break down of society that concerns me. It is, know it all radicals, like you that are tearing this country apart. All you do is criticize but you have no idea of the ramifications of your ideology, nor do you have a viable solution to any of the problems faced by this country. You think everyone is ENTITLED to a free ride.


  16. whungerford says:

    Bob, you make me feel like Charles Atlas or King Kong. My views aren’t radical, and it is hard to imagine that even a large group of radicals could “tear the country apart.”


  17. BOB MCGILL says:

    and you can’t even READ !


  18. BOB MCGILL says:…/editorial-a…‎CachedThe Washington TimesLoading…by Emily Miller – in 823 Google+ circles
    Feb 20, 2014 – The administration’s close ties to environmental groups appear to be making an impact on domestic energy policy in other ways. New permits …


  19. BOB MCGILL says:…/fbi-eco-terrorism-remains-no-1…‎CachedFox News ChannelLoading…Mar 31, 2008 – But there is a domestic terror threat that federal officials still consider priority No. 1 — eco-terrorism. The torching of luxury homes in the swank …


  20. BOB MCGILL says:‎Cached
    SimilarWikipediaLoading…The ELF was classified as the top “domestic terror” threat in the United States by …. In late November 2008, a group calling itself Eco-Anarquista Por El Ataque …


  21. BOB MCGILL says:‎Cached
    SimilarOrganization for Security…Loading…ideologies committed to violence and terror; the burden of divisive pasts. … If we do not want our shared values to be undermined by violent and divisive ideologies … The past, in other words, has profound relevance for the politics of today and


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