One of the things a conservative finds disappointing is the number of people — mostly, but not exclusively, on the political left — who seem to think that reality can be altered by wanting things to be different than they actually are.

Indeed, some people act as if they possessed a mental magic wand, like Harry Potter’s, that could alter their environment just because they wish things were different.

Such “magical thinking” is found in many areas of life, but let’s look at some of the ways that people appear to believe that their desires and wishes can alter reality — and how others use those desires to manipulate them.

Social programs: Hardly a day goes by that we don’t see some defender of the status quo calling Republicans to task for wanting to “break long-standing commitments to the American people” for the high crime of wanting to put Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid on a sound financial footing.

Left unsaid is the fact that these programs cannot remain as they are now, and those who accuse Republicans of parsimony in their provision know that perfectly well. We must either spend less money on them than we now project, and spend what we have better, or we will have no money, period.

But some people are willing to tell us that they can have all their benefits in their current forms apparently because that claim, spurious as it is, could gain them a bit of an advantage in the next elections for Congress and the presidency.

Meanwhile, the Obamacare law passed by lame-duck Democrats last year calls for, among other things, a $500 billion cut in Medicare funding in order to finance other provisions of the law.

Who is it, exactly, that’s planning big changes in benefit plans? Yet, people are still being told that alterations to social programs can be avoided.

There’s no evidence that encouraging delusionary thinking among people who depend on them for honesty and straight talk bothers these folks one bit.

Now, it’s true that the GOP proposals that are currently on the table are not the only possible reforms. But we continue to paddle down the river, hearing the roar of the waterfall ahead of us grow ever louder, and fight over the need to change course. The cataract, of course, doesn’t care. And every day we get closer to it.

• Climate change: When storms, floods and other weather-related natural disasters are few, as they have been in recent years, we are told that “weather isn’t climate.”

But in years like this, when storms and their effects are common, the narrative changes overnight, and suddenly bad weather is incontrovertible evidence of “climate change.”

What’s not being said is that any weather at all is evidence of that, because the entire history of the Earth shows that its climate is constantly changing.

Where did we get the idea that the weather we had in the 1970s was the ideal state of the climate for the entire planet over its billions of years of existence?

Nevertheless, that’s what we are being told, even if you have to believe in magic to wrap your mind around the intellectual arrogance of the idea.

A cleaner environment is certainly worth striving for. But such a goal has nothing to do with controlling carbon dioxide, which is not a “pollutant” but a gas utterly necessary for the continuation of life on Earth, as it enables plants to grow and not only provide us food and useful materials, but to create the very oxygen we breathe.

If anyone is interested in a “one-stop-shopping” wrap-up on the wrongheadedness of “climate control” and the desires of its backers to control our daily lives, go to www.firstthings.com, click on the tab marked “Print Edition” and read “The Truth About Greenhouse Gases: The Dubious Science of the Climate Crusaders,” by William Happer, Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton.

Happer points out that plants die when atmospheric CO2 gets below 150 parts per million, and animal life is harmed when it gets above about 5,000 ppm.

In the past 150 years, CO2 in the air has risen from 270 ppm to 390 ppm — an increase unnoticeable to either animals or plants, he says, and much closer to the bottom of the livable range than its top.

Meanwhile, claims that the current levels are making climate worse ignore history, as climate has been both warmer and colder in the past when CO2 levels were both lower and far higher than they are now.

Thus, forecasts of imminent disaster have more in common with a preacher’s predictions of the specific date of the Apocalypse than any rational view of the science, Happer says.

And anyone familiar with the world press knows that governments around the globe are abandoning efforts to control carbon emissions, citing both their rational analysis of the extremely unfavorable cost-benefit ratio of such efforts and the unwillingness of nations like China and India to sacrifice growth to feed delusions.

• Politics as salvation: Even more serious than either of those deceptions is the one that is far more prevalent today than it was when I was young: that politicians and the political process hold the cure for all that ails us.

We had really better get over that one, and get over it quickly.

If history teaches us anything about excessive trust in politics, it is that it is invariably fatal to free societies.

Without rich, full private lives and associations — including religious ones — deliberately kept out of government’s reach, we don’t have a worthwhile future.

M.D. Harmon is an editorial writer. He can be contacted at 791-6482 or at:

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