Part of being a child is partially living in fantasyland — which makes the pain of growing up much easier. Believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny brings a certain amount of joy.
The Disney Corp. became very rich by catering to children’s fantasies (before it became political), which was a win for the stockholders, employees and particularly the children. Most outgrow their childhood fantasies with ease and grace, but for some, the trauma of reality causes them to become mean and in denial.
Many adults still want to live in fantasyland and become angry and vicious when confronted by reality. Last Friday evening, Elon Musk, through journalist Matt Taibbi, started releasing tweets revealing the efforts that people connected to the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign took to successfully censor information about Hunter and Joe Biden.
Those who believe in sunlight and freedom of speech properly praised what Mr. Musk was doing, even though his whole Twitter effort had been very financially costly to him — but unlike many business people, he has put the Bill of Rights above profit.
The immediate reaction from some, but not all, in the mainstream media was to attack Messrs. Taibbi and Musk (e.g., “Why is Taibbi carrying water for the world’s richest man?”) rather than praising them for their public service. These so-called journalists were acting like vicious children who lash out and blame others for their own misdeeds. Honest journalists will admit that many of them were very late in covering the Hunter Biden laptop story and what it said about the Biden crime family because they did not want (or more importantly did not want others) to believe the story.
We have seen the same vicious childlike behavior in the treatment of the still unfolding COVID-19 vaccine story. Government officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first told us that a vaccine had been created in record time that would prevent COVID-19 and stop its spread. Everyone wanted to believe — from Donald Trump to most doctors and the public. We fought to be first in line to get our shots.
And then the evidence started to come in — each month the degree of effectiveness was revised downward, to the point that it now appears that people who have received a number of shots are more likely to actually contract COVID-19 (albeit in a milder form), and that side effects of the vaccine are more severe and common.
The “experts” at the CDC keep changing their minds about the shots, lockdowns and masks. What is “shot” is their credibility. Dr. Anthony Fauci and others made pronouncements with great certainty, such as “I am science, and to disagree with me is to disagree with science.” What they should have done is to say what weather forecasters and many economic forecasters have learned to do after many bad experiences:
“We believe as of now that the vaccine has X chance of being effective and Y chance of serious side effects; but as more data becomes available, we may need to revise our estimates.” People intuitively understand the limits of knowledge, particularly medical knowledge. Dr. Fauci and the others would still have their reputations if they had acted more like rational adults than vicious children and all-knowing gods not to be questioned.
One cannot help but wonder what fantasy someone who wears a face mask believes while jogging alone in a park. It says more about their likely voting behavior than their knowledge of science and probability.
The world has also been “treated” to the story of the very expensive ($35 billion?) fiasco of Sam Bankman-Fried (aka SBF) and the collapse of FTX. The engine of economic progress depends on entrepreneurs developing new business ideas and raising venture capital to fund them. Most new ventures fail, but some succeed spectacularly well. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have co-founded successful and unsuccessful new ventures in the past and understand the risks and rewards. I am currently raising capital to expand a company that buys aluminum, and then digitizes and tokenizes it so that small investors, as well as small industry participants, can own aluminum as a store of value, or trade it, or speculate in the price of aluminum at very low cost.)
SBF ended up not running a real business but a Ponzi scheme. He was able to raise large sums from even sophisticated investors, in part, by giving donations to political organizations and others who wanted to believe the fantasy that he was real, in the hope that he would increase his donations. Many who should have known better endorsed the myth that he was a child financial genius rather than undertake due diligence (e.g., what was the company’s product? Did it make any sense? Did the company have proper financial controls in place?).
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, like a vicious child, and others immediately (without knowing the facts) said the FTX failure shows the need for more regulation (which would increase her power). There have always been laws against theft and fraud. But the laws and regulations were not enforced in part because of SBF’s political connections, giving him a free pass from many in Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Some in the media and elsewhere are treating SBF as a folk hero and providing him platforms, rather than as the pariah that he is. All of this makes it more difficult for honest entrepreneurs to raise capital and build businesses.
• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.