Bad news is nothing new. Just think of the scene in Network where Faye Dunaway flips through the New York Daily News, or watch Bill Hicks’ stand up routine about going crazy while watching the bad news on CNN. “War, Famine, Death, AIDS, Homeless, Recession, Depression,” as Hicks chanted, seems to describe the template for news. If it bleeds it leads.
Which is not to say there’s not bad news, or not a lot of it, but there’s good news too, sometimes in the bad news. Here are five pieces of potentially good news about the bad news.
5. More and More Food Is Genetically Modified
Genetically modified foods caused such a scare in Europe that the EU tried to ban them, and still resists their importation. The demand for “organic” food in the United States, meanwhile, has helped companies like Whole Foods grow exponentially over the last decade.
But what’s wrong with “Frankenfood”? Genetic modifications are mainly used to increase crop yield, to feed more people while using the same amount of land and resources.
Fear of genetically modified foods is another manifestation of technophobia. The next time someone tries to tell you corporations are poisoning the food supply, remind him or her that the government recommended Americans consume 5 to 10 servings of high-carb food a day. Government tariffs made high fructose corn syrup ubiquitous. Corporations are just trying to give you what you want at the highest price you are willing to pay. Genetically modified foods help them get there.
4. Unemployment Staying Strong
Official unemployment has been stuck above 8 percent for years, and is going down only slowly, but as Doug Rushkoff asked, who wants a job anyway? Capitalism isn’t just about the nine to five, it’s about the wealth creation. High unemployment could actually be good news.
Among the mostly useless and interventionist provisions in President Barack Obama’s JOBS Act (remember that?), there was one uncharacteristically good idea: allowing people to use their unemployment benefits as start-up capital for a small business.
If government dropped the pretense it can do anything to “create jobs” and stopped meddling with the economy, the workforce might catch up to the technology.
There’s a wealth of creative power in the country. It's being constricted by 20th century regulations and outdated entitlement programs young people aren’t interested in anyway. Unemployed doesn't have to mean dead-beat!
3. Global Warming
The scientific consensus suggests the globe is warming, and bureaucrats from Washington to Brussels want to use it as an excuse to push through more government, more taxes, and more regulations. But climate change doesn’t have to be such a downer.
Climate change, after all, may well be responsible for the rise of homo sapiens in the first place. Why? Because we were the most adaptable. Adaptability means progress. In fact, big centralized government plans have retarded a lot of human progress; reliance on a system of slavery in Ancient Greece and Rome prevented the development of technology that would increase productivity (who needs to be productive when you can just capture more free labor?), the centralized Church helped keep Europe in the dark ages for centuries, and China’s political unification has been blamed for the lack of Chinese shipping during the age of exploration.
While conferences in Copenhagen or Bonn may not contribute much to climate change but more carbon dioxide emissions (from the delegates and their modes of travel), science holds the answers, if you can cut through the doom and gloom politics.
2. Congress Is Passing Fewer Laws and No One Wants to Compromise
The last Congress suffered a significant drop in the amount of legislation it was able to pass. Though groups like Americans Elect bemoan the lack of centrism, there’s not a lot of desire for new lawmaking among the electorate.
Despite the Democratic Senate's failure to pass a budget in half a decade, gridlock is swell news. What does it mean for Congress to set aside its differences and work for the common good anyway? Nice on paper, the common good is impossible to define in the real world. Partisanship is an inevitable byproduct of democracy.
Even supposing partisanship to be a problem, it's not clear that compromise, rather than coalition building, is the solution. The increase in insurgent candidates on the right and the left might make go-along/get-along harder for the establishment. It might also strengthen some emerging coalitions on ending monstrosities like the War on Drugs or the Fed. In fact, this news should be upgraded to fantastic!
1. Drones Coming To the Friendly Skies
The FAA expects to have regulations in place by 2014 for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in American airspace by government and commercial entities. Already, police in North Dakota have used a drone to apprehend a criminal suspect, and the market’s already offered up some personal drones.
Reason's Tim Cavanaugh notes the benefits of drones in military technology. The president used drones to reduce due process for terrorism suspects and militants (defined as all military-aged males) to an off-the-record conversation at the White House. So what’s the good news about the technology's homecoming?
When was the last time Judge Andrew Napolitano and columnist Charles Krauthammer agreed on anything? Both suggested a domestic drone would likely get shot down pretty quickly. Napolitano accurately observed that that first person to down a drone of any kind would be widely recognized as a hero.
Americans may be divided on, or even largely supportive of, the use of drones to rain death on foreign populations. The idea of using the technology on the domestic population, for surveillance and increasingly military-style enforcement for suspected crimes against the environment, is a lot more unsettling. Perhaps unsettling enough to make the electorate do something about it. That would be great news.
Ed Krayewski is an associate editor for 24/7 News at Reason.com.