Friday, July 16, 2010

By Feel Alone

Whether you agree with Paul Krugman or not, his 9 July post is a serious statement:

It’s now obvious that the stimulus was much too small; yet there’s virtually no chance of getting additional measures out of Congress.

We’ll never know whether the administration could have passed a bigger plan; we do know that it didn’t try.

Those concerns were what had me fairly frantic in early 2009...

And here we are. From a strictly economic point of view, we could still fix this... But politically, we’re stuck...

I’d like to say something uplifting here; but right now I’m feeling pretty bleak.

At the heart of that bleak setting, these words (see also here) are particularly disturbing:

Even before the severity of the financial crisis was fully apparent, the recent history of recessions suggested that the jobs picture would continue to worsen long after the recession was technically over. And by the winter of 2008-2009, it was obvious that this was the Big One — which, if the aftermath of previous major crises was any guide, would be followed by multiple years of high unemployment.

This bit of it: The recent history of recessions suggests...
And this bit: If the aftermath of previous major crises is any guide...
Do these bits of it disturb anybody but me?

Maybe Krugman is dumbing things down for his readers. But I don't think so. He's sharp, he writes well, and he can explain things simply without dumbing them down. I think he is giving a simple but accurate explanation of a problem that had him "frantic." So if he's not dumbing things down, then what is he doing?

I wrote a little something a while back, on programming in the languages of AutoCAD. (Maybe I'll put it on line some day.) At one point I described learning to program as similar to finding your way through a cave in the dark, by feel alone.

That's what Krugman is doing. He doesn't know why the jobs picture continues to worsen long after the recession is over. He only knows that the recent history of recessions suggests it is likely to happen again. He does not know why major crises are followed by multiple years of high unemployment. He only knows that it often happens. Krugman is doing economics by feel alone.

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