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The Unapologetic Geek

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Republicans and Ebola

Bill O'Reilly
With the exception of a surprisingly reasonable Shepard Smith, Fox News should now just call itself the "OMG! EBOLA! WEESA GONNA DIE! Channel"

Look, guys, I get it. You want to highlight how inept government is, and you want to make the president look bad a few weeks before the elections. I was right there with you pointing out the laughably poor handling of things like the website, the NSA leaks, the IRS scandal, GAO corruption, secret service failures (with or without prostitutes), predictable foreign policy disasters, the impossible-to-satire selling-guns-to-Mexico-and-not-tracking-them-in-order-to-stop-gunrunning plan, and much more. I'm right there with you, ideologically, when it comes to not trusting a big, bureaucratic machine with all the vagaries of life instead of just the necessities of governance, and I am completely on board with pointing out the inefficiency, unintended consequences, and poor results of a host of government programs. Having said that, three cases of Ebola in the United States is not something you want to make a big deal out of.

For one thing, it reinforces the left's impression of conservatives as being borderline anarchists. Even as a pretty devoted Libertarian, I don't think the CDC and pandemic disease is something we can leave up to the states or the free market. I'd be willing to put that on the very short list of things the federal government absolutely should be in charge of. Yes, you should continue to be skeptical of authority and you should even put pressure on agencies like the CDC to do their best, because God knows federal agencies don't have nearly enough oversight. But when you just straight-up assume the CDC is lying without giving them any benefit of the doubt, you come across less as a skeptical watchdog and more as a fear-mongering curmudgeon.

For another thing, three cases of Ebola really isn't that big of a deal. Yes, you should be at least mildly concerned if, say, you work in a hospital with an Ebola patient, but then again, if you work in any hospital, you are always at risk of getting a horrible disease. I don't know if you noticed or not, but hospitals are where all the sick people go. Yes, if the CDC contacted you and told you you need to be quarantined or watched because you were in close contact with an Ebola patient, you should be a little worried, because that would be natural. However, if you live in, say, West Virginia or Colorado or something, be more worried about the flu or AIDS or any of the thousands of other diseases out there that are far more likely to kill you. (Hell, Ebola isn't even the most deadly disease rampaging through Africa.)

Don't panic about Ebola, there's spiritual homeopathy!
Stupid kills way more people than Ebloa, too

I'm not saying you should blindly trust anyone who tells you we've got it all under control, but it's definitely not helpful to treat this like we're living through the movie Outbreak. Any fan of the free market should already understand that there is nothing in life that is risk-free, that there are no free lunches. Conservativism, as I understand it at least, should be about understanding the best ways to manage risk, not demanding that the government do away with all risk everywhere. Once you start proclaiming that the federal government is to blame for not doing enough to handle something that has only directly affected three people, you start sounding like one of the big government advocates you always complain about.

This is why I simply don't understand your argument, which, as best as I can discern, comes down to this: (1) The federal government can't be trusted because it is inept; (2) The Ebola "outbreak" is a predictable result of government incompetence; (3) Therefore, we should demand the government do more. That, my friends, is a non-sequitur. If government is the problem (which it's not, at least not in this case), why would you think more government is the solution? The president just appointed an "Ebola czar," which is something you guys should be making fun of as a ridiculous waste of time and resources, but he did it, in large part, because of pressure coming from the right. There were Republicans on Capitol Hill demanding that the president create an entirely new bureaucratic position within the federal government to tackle a problem that, once again, has only directly affected three people.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. There are plenty of reasons I'm not a Republican. One of them is that, for all your talk of small government, when you are in power, you tend to do just as much (if not more) to grow government as Democrats do. Even under Reagan, the federal government ultimately got bigger, not smaller. Your non-sensical reaction to a few cases of Ebola in this country is just further proof that, when things get tough and you decide you're afraid of something, you go running to the federal government with your thumb in your mouth and your hand out.

sleeping TSA agent
Totally preventing another 9/11

Look what happened after 9/11. Under a Republican administration, the new federal Department of Homeland Security was created, the Patriot Act was passed, and our good friends at the TSA arrived on the scene to make sure there weren't bombs in the shoes of our toddlers and grandparents. Should there have been a response to a terrorist attack on American soil that killed over 3,000 civilians? Absolutely. Did all those new government powers and agencies actually help? Maybe, but it came at a ludicrously high price for our liberties, all in the name of reducing risk.

With that precedent, what do you really hope to achieve by pointing fingers at the CDC? Should TSA screeners give random blood tests to international travelers now? Should we create a new Department of Pandemic Management that coordinates with the CDC, Homeland Security, and the NSA? Do you want to close our borders completely to all international travel so that we never have to worry about anything foreign ever getting in again? Yes, bad things happen, and yes, this Ebola "crisis" will probably get a little worse before it gets better, but don't let your reaction to bad things happening create even more and longer-lasting problems.

I don't want to drop the "trading freedom for security" quote yet again, but it never stops being relevant. The more you panic, and the more you complain that government isn't doing enough, the fewer liberties you are going to have at the end of the day. You are just asking for more government interference, more reactionary regulations that will probably do more harm than good, more government programs that will never die, and more pointless laws on the books that nobody will be able to adequately decipher. How quickly you abandon the principles you claim guide your party.

-e. magill 10/20/2014

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