A NYT article, The Debate About America’s Best Days about Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth sounds like another academic pontificating how our best days are behind us. Reminds me of economists from the 1970s and early 80s who made the same claim- I just cannot remember their names- neither can anybody else. (wait… just came to me…. Lester Thurow)
“For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell,” the economic historian Deirdre N. McCloskey of the University of Illinois, Chicago, wrote in an essay about “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” the blockbuster about income inequality by the French economist Thomas Piketty. “Yet pessimism has consistently been a poor guide to the modern economic world.”
While reading the article I thought of the term for my economic outlook- ‘cynical optimism’- I am optimistic sbout the future and man’s potential, but I have little faith in those who predict or worse, pretend they can influence or control it.
While reading Rove’s book The Triumph of William McKinley, about his campaign it was clear that after major recessions in 1873 and 1893 (and the doozy still to come in 1907), they were pretty pessimistic then as well. It appears that eras of great economic growth coincide with eras of great economic and political turmoil. I would not assume that either is a cause of the other or predict accordingly.
It would seem that economists, of all professions, would understand the danger of predicting the future based on the past or even the current trend.