This is one of the dumbest, and yet most ominous, of recent headlines: Italian Seismologists Charged With Manslaughter for Not Predicting 2009 Quake. Of course, no one can predict earthquakes. No matter:
Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial along with six other scientists and technicians, after failing to predict the future and the impending disaster.
Earthquakes are, of course, nearly impossible to predict, seismologists say. In fact, according to the website for the USGS, no major quake has ever been predicted successfully.
The linked Fox story quotes a spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey who says that Italy’s criminal prosecution “has a medieval flavor to it.” Actually, you would have to go back to a more primitive era to recapture the condition of childish dependence that this story reveals. Many Europeans, and a growing number of Americans, have abandoned any pretense of looking after themselves and believe that it is the duty of the authorities–whoever they may be in a particular instance–to protect them from all harm, if not all inconvenience.
This is, perhaps, the essence of the bargain that constitutes the welfare state. Ordinary citizens give up their freedom, their ambition and most of their wealth to a political class; such a heavy sacrifice demands a heavy price. If the authorities don’t deliver, off with their heads! Logic, really, has nothing to do with it.