The Endless Scares

Posted: July 9th, 2009 by Militant Libertarian

by John Stossel

The fear du jour is “global climate change.”

To keep that in perspective, it’s good to remember the long list of previous scares like Y2K, SARS, pesticide residues, Mad Cow disease, nuclear power, and so on. The list is long. Here’s one that conservatives pushed: Pornography leads to rape. It did have logic to it, just as it seemed logical that watching violent TV and playing violent video games would lead kids to become more violent. But the opposite has happened.

At, Tim Worstall cites Department of Justice data that shows that since the 1970s, the incidence of rape per capita has declined by an incredible 85%. Worstall points out:

It isn’t exactly news that the rise of the internet and the web has made pornography vastly more available. Where once there was, at least widely, only the mildest of cheesecake available in the likes of Playboy now every act and perversion can be viewed with a few simple clicks of a mouse. If exposure to porn did indeed cause rape, if on balance they were complements not substitutes, we would have expected an explosion in the incidence of rapes.

Instapundit Glenn Reynolds agrees. Trying to explain improvements in the rates of teen pregnancy, crime and drug use, he suggests that even teens’ increased access to porn and violent videogames might have caused the declines. Reynolds wrote in 2004:

Maybe the porn, and the videogames, provided catharsis, serving as substitutes for the real thing. Maybe. And maybe there’s no connection at all… Most likely, the lesson is that — once again — correlation isn’t causation, despite policy entrepreneurs’ efforts to claim otherwise.

But regardless, the fears of the doomsayers were proven wrong. People can continue to claim that psychological research suggests that videogames lead to violence and that porn leads to promiscuity, but in the real world the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. It’s an argument for taking other claims of impending social doom with a grain of salt.

Climate, chemical, bacteria, and terrorism doom too!

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