In the wake of Hurricane Irene, Fox News has a new entry in its “Do We Really Need [Insert Literally Any Government Agency or Program]?” genre of editorial. It’s entitled “Do We Really Need a National Weather Service?”, and it’s at least as goofy as it sounds:
Today the NWS justifies itself on public interest grounds. It issues severe weather advisories and hijacks local radio and television stations to get the message out. It presumes that citizens do not pay attention to the weather and so it must force important, perhaps lifesaving, information upon them.
That’s just like the dagblasted government, innit, with all the presuming? They presume I don’t have a gun and a strong willingness/desire to shoot anyone who approaches me on the street, so they go all nanny state and provide police; they presume I don’t have a Hummer, so they go building roads when, as a rugged individualist, I would be happy to just plow over virgin terrain (sexual undertones totally unintended, because my Hummer is decidedly not a penis replacement).
But in all seriousness, how are citizens to pay attention to the weather if somebody isn’t collecting data about it for them? Of course, there are plenty of enterprising private businesses that are happy to fulfill this function, but as with all things, the relationship between such businesses and the government is a bit more complex than in Republican Fantasyland:
In addition to WeatherBug weather station data, WeatherBug integrates data from sources such as the National Weather Service (NWS) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (via WeatherBug.com)
Information from the National Weather Service, such as severe weather alerts and current conditions, is transmitted to custom equipment at each cable location (via Weather.com)
But let’s return to Fox News:
A few seconds’ thought reveals how silly this is. The weather might be the subject people care most about on a daily basis. There is a very successful private TV channel dedicated to it, 24 hours a day, as well as any number of phone and PC apps.
Yes, but… you were just talking about those weather alerts that “hijack” our TV and radio stations. Your counterpoint to the necessity of those is that people pay attention to the weather on their own, but does the average citizen really flip from Everybody Loves Raymond to The Weather Channel every time a commercial comes on? Because that’d be pretty much the only way to replace the functionality of those invasive, nanny-state weather alerts. Sure, it may be a
relief annoyance when that blaring klaxon blocks out Ray Romano’s voice, but if you’re more concerned with catching the punchline of a sitcom joke than with saving lives, potentially including your own, I’m just not sure you’re equipped to participate in a democracy.
Outside the Fox News bubble, Ron Paul helpfully paints a picture of life in that glorious utopia in which the government doesn’t meddle in our weather:
After a lunch speech today, Ron Paul slammed the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and said that no national response to Hurricane Irene is necessary.
“We should be like 1900; we should be like 1940, 1950, 1960,” Paul said. “I live on the Gulf Coast; we deal with hurricanes all the time. Galveston is in my district.
Of course, between 6,000 and 12,000 people died in the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, but that’s the time period we should be emulating! Sure, more people died preventable deaths due to lack of emergency preparations, but you know what’s more important than human lives? Low tax rates.