We’re Doomed – Again

In every time and every place there have been those predicting doom just over the horizon. Eventually, one of them is right and is often remembered long after by future prophets of doom. No one remembers the millions who were wrong, unless they flamed out in a particularly spectacular fashion or a psychologist wrote a book about them. It’s why predicting the end of the world is much more popular than predicting everything will be just fine. It’s all upside and no downside.

The HBD blogger JayMan has a post up predicting the end of the world. Those inclined to this sort of thinking will surely find plenty to recommend it. That’s the other thing about doom-saying. There’s a big audience for it. People really seem to like hearing that it is all going to come crashing down. maybe it is a form of class grievance that is acceptable, because it lacks the vengeful quality of Marxism.

I have not read the whole thing or had much time to mull over his arguments, but what jumps out to me immediately is the Great Depression Syndrome. This is a cognitive bias I just made up to describe the myopic view of economics history. The field seems to be entirely warped by that one event.  I suspect it is because it is the big economic event that gave birth to their profession. That and they don’t have reliable data for prior events.

Still, you would think someone would notice that the world was buggering along for a few thousand years before Keynes. The other issue is the cultural overhang. The story of the American empire starts with the Great Depression and World War II. The Boomers grew up hearing tales about their parents making it through the Depression to then beating the Nazis. Jews, of course, dominate the economics field, so they bring their cultural biases to the table. For them, economics is all that matters.

The Great Depression is not the standard we should be applying today. For starters, the Great Depression was not what romantics of today claim. It was bad for a lot of people, but it was not catastrophic for most people. In fact, most people did well enough and some people did really well. That and it was relatively short compared to other economic downturns. The Long Depression was worse and it lasted much longer.

It is probably fair to say that the Long Depression is a better analogue to today than the Great Depression. Instead of one big dive over the cliff, followed by a period of adjustment, there were a series of shocks around the world that fed on one another, leading to a global depression. Today, Europe has different troubles than the US, which has different problems than Japan, but all of these systemic problems are influencing one another, threatening the global economy.

Even so, it is not a great analogue. There are lessons to be drawn, but policy makers never learn from the past so it is left to history buffs. Read Currency Wars and you can get a nice easy to read on the history of the Long Depression as well as the Great Depression. Again, the main issue we have with drawing lessons from previous economic turmoil is we don’t have a lot of useful data from those eras. That and the modern nation is demographically different from anything in the past.

Then we have the this. He too suffers from Great Depression Syndrome. In his case, no pics of bread lines today means it is better than the 30’s, because he remembers seeing all of those pics of breadlines back in school. The 1930’s did not have sprawling black ghettos either. They did not have trailer parks full of meth labs. They did not millions of foreign peasants crossing in the country. It’s what makes comparisons between now and 80 years ago incomplete. These are two different countries.

Anyway, plenty of good stuff for the doom and gloom types. The most likely outcome is we stagger from crisis to crisis as the world emerges from the post-Cold War delusions and comes to terms with the technological and demographic realities. There will be a slow winding down of the American Empire and rapid change in American politics, as we descend into tribal multiculturalism. All transitions come with a price, so maybe it is a slow decline or a quick on, the good economic days are probably over.