- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2000

What happened to the end of the world? Last week was the week that was predicted to end with the crash of the world's computers, because there wasn't time to correct billions of lines of faulty code. If there ever was a problem it was largely fixed. If there was no problem, we will never know now. Most Americans seemed to realize there was not going to be a Y2K crisis, and refused to join the much-touted mass panic predicted by the media.

In fact the only sign of a Y2K problem around here was the millennium count-down clock outside the Naval Observatory, which of course also houses the home of Vice President Al Gore, Mr. High Tech himself. On New Year's Eve, the clock was no less than 1 1/2 hours late. Of course, that may seem like a detail compared with the Washington fireworks that nearly didn't happen. As thousands of D.C. and Virginia residents watched for the fireworks at midnight, all they saw was the spectacular lighting up of the Washington monument and then nothing. The real show didn't start till one o'clock, which had not been advertised, with the result that many went home deeply disappointed only to hear the fireworks when they were back indoors. Just brilliant.

The signs of calm everywhere were simple but convincing. First, computers and the Internet are responsible for the immediate spread of pertinent information impending gloom would quickly spread panic. Didn't happen.

Second, prices convey information about goods and consumers. Stocks go up and down, but they didn't plunge before Jan. 1. Instead they continued generally up as they have since Ronald Reagan's first term. In the face of a real crisis these goods would be in short supply and prices would hit the roof. Washingtonians clear store shelves before snow storms, but abjured such hoarding before the New Year with the exception of a few people with well-stocked basements.

Third, where are the politicians who want to guard against every hardship? In the face of Y2K, Congress simply acted to limit lawsuits, federal agencies hired some computer programmers and the rest was all talk killer bees in Texas stirred up more action over the years.

The only threat remaining was terrorism, a threat that could have been increased by doomsday predictions. Seattle canceled celebrations at the Space Needle, in the face of mere speculation about a threat. Clearly hysteria helps terrorists. At least one man thought he could capitalize on the hysteria. As The Wall Street Journal reported recently, federal agents foiled a plan to blow up a section of the Alaskan pipeline. According to the Journal the man responsible for the plot thought he could make a fortune off oil stocks.

The world didn't end, but let's hope we've seen the last of the hysteria.

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