By Robert Halton
It's fun looking back. Sometimes we see all kinds of things in the rearview mirror; they say that hindsight is 20/20. A friend of mine once described hindsight bias as the difference between what we know now and the people involved in the activity at the time didn't know.
Below is a PDF we found interesting from 1951. It's an editorial by then editor-in-chief of Fire Engineering magazine, Fred Shepherd, who points out that in 1951 Washington officials were spending $3 billion in a civil defense scheme aimed at making the countryâs population safer from attack. You have to remember at this time the country was obsessed with the idea of worldwide nuclear war and the threat from our then major foe, the Soviet Union.
What had Fred so excited was the fact that half of the grant money was going to be used to build air raid shelters. To further Fred's excitement, he points out that the shelters were only being placed to protect only a part of the nation's population. Fred also points out that the shelters may have very well become deathtraps in the event of widespread conflagration, a common occurrence in bombings.
Fred goes on to describe a large fire in a paper plant in Pittsburgh and how it threatened nearby neighborhoods (following Fred's editorial is an article about that fire from Fire Engineering, also from 1951), where firefighting efforts were hampered by a broken water main. Fred's editorial concludes with a quote from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the money would be better spent enhancing municipal services than building bomb shelters. It reads this way: "The difficulty of fighting fire when the municipal services are out of whack will never be forgotten by those who watched yesterday's blaze. Instead of burrowing underground at a staggering cost in money and manpower, we ought to go about the business of making sure that our essential municipal services are capable of handling emergencies."
Let us know what you think of these looking-back pieces, and let us know what you think about government spending. Let us know what you think about today's government programs. Heck let us know what you think about air raid shelters--you know, I think that hard lemon drop candy they had down there is still good.
Download this article as a PDF HERE.