Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pious politician prays after prognosis predicts precipitation.

The weather in Georgia has just been too nice -- no rain that is. Not much at least. Georgia is suffering a dry spell. Now before people say it is warming that entire region of the US is one that has actually experienced cooling for the last several years. But that isn’t my point.

The rational thing to do when a commodity, such as water, becomes scarce, is to raise the price. Higher prices mean people are more careful with it. They might wash the car less or not fill their swimming pools (not that they ought to fill them this time of year anyway). If it is a long term problem they might change the sort of vegetation they plant around their homes.

Prices are feedback loops. Scarcity drives up prices and send the message to consumers to conserve. Government doesn’t like the price mechanism. It doesn’t have any of the authority and Big Stick approach they prefer. Instead they usually demand rationing and non-price related controls -- none of which work as effectively.

In Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue decided to try something different. He decided to show his piety in public by calling for a prayer session in order to beg God for rain. This non-believer does find the idea a bit strange. I can’t see a God that would stop rain simply to force people to beg him for it. Nor does the punishment theory make sense to me from a moral perspective. If drought is meant to punish sinners why not use a method that doesn’t punish everyone else along the way?

But Governor Perdue, a Baptist, decided that television reports showing him praying outside the state house for rain would be the thing. Apparently praying on the State Capitol steps in full view of the television crews, makes the prayers more effective. I suppose the microphones were necessary in case God was hard of hearing.

They told everyone it was an interfaith service that he would be leading. But “interfaith” doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to them. The only people with speaking parts were a gaggle of Protestant ministers -- and I suspect mostly fundamentalist ministers at that. But Perdue is a Theopublican.

Perdue is bound to get rain at some point. That is a given. So praying for rain tends to be a safe bet depending on how long you are willing to wait to see your “prayers answered.” But Perdue wasn’t taking much of risk. He held his prayer session on Tuesday. But the National Weather Service had already predicted a 50/50 chance of rain for Wednesday by then. Talk about hedging your bets.

From that perspective it wasn’t much of a risk. Perdue could publicize his piety, which the Theopublic of Georgia is about as popular as pork rinds. If it rains he looks good. If it doesn’t God gets the blame.

Those who believe will believe no matter what. And no doubt, if it rains, they will credit the prayers as the cause. If it didn’t rain something else would get the blame. But certainly with seven day and ten day weather forecasts being common it is rather simple to schedule a prayer service for rain one day before rain is expected. But no doubt when rain comes some loud “Hosanna’s” will be shouted and Sonny will be feeling pleased with himself.