Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One sees what one expects to see

A white plastic shopping bag relaxes on the kitchen counter.

Through the window I see a pile of snow, lit somehow in the pre-dawn darkness.

It strikes me odd that there is so little snow outside. I turn, and discover that the snow is a reflection of the shopping bag.

I expected to see snow outside, not shopping bags.

One sees what one expects to see, and one expects what one has been told to expect.

If everyone tells you government debt is the problem, you expect that government debt is the problem. And when you see pictures of government debt alone, you come to believe it is true.

Private debt is six times larger than government debt. Government debt has been roughly stable (relative to GDP) while private debt grew relentlessly for 50 years or more. These facts should make us ponder the problem of private-sector debt.

But no one speaks of private debt. So we expect it is not a problem.

It is a problem. It is the problem.

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