Friday, June 25, 2010

Time Horizons Again

Paul Krugman again goes to the Keynesian well and writes, "in the long run we are still all dead."

FLG has mentioned this quotation before in support of his time horizons thesis. But you know what never struck FLG is how almost hedonistic this view is:
I mean, why shouldn’t we be focused on the business cycle? We’ve suffered the worst cyclical downturn since the Great Depression; in terms of unemployment and output gaps, we have recovered almost none of the lost ground. Millions of willing workers are idle because of lack of demand; let them stay idle, and we can turn this into a long-term structural problem, but right now it is precisely a short-term, cyclical problem.

So saying that we need to focus on the long term, and not worry our little heads about trivial short-term issues like the highest long-term unemployment rate since the Great Depression, may sound like wisdom — but it’s actually folly.

We've suffered. Let's run up debt. We'll be dead and won't care anyway. Sure, but what about our children and grandchildren? It's pretty damn selfish if you ask me. On the other hand, Krugman could argue that it's heartless not to try to help people who are suffering. But even if we agree upon that, then there's the question of whether the policies designed to stimulate the economy are in fact effective.

Just so you know, my theory about time horizons isn't to label leftists as stupid. It's my attempt to try to understand their motivation and first principles. For a while, in my teens and twenties, I just thought they were stupid and ignorant of economics. But I asked myself how could so many smart people, and there are very smart Lefties, be so self-evidently wrong?

Well, my answer isn't that they are self-evidently wrong. They just place different values on time, which is a reasonable point of disagreement. He wishes that many of them could return the favor of understanding this. Not that the Right is in any way a bastion of understanding and tolerance, but they're supposed to be ignorant and stupid anyway, right?


George Pal said...

’... how could so many smart people, and there are very smart Lefties, be so self-evidently wrong?’

There must come a tipping point, I’m assuming you have a tipping point – everyone has a tipping point - where you are left to come to the conclusion the Left are indeed stupid.

Placing different values on time is indeed a reasonable disagreement. But the Law of Shattered Great Expectations says if A is attempted and Z is always the undesirable result try a value other than A.

Willfully ignoring the effects of all previous attempts to make A come out other than Z leaves the Left open to and deserving of the label stupid.

The Ancient said...

FLG --

Remember the opening joke in The Brief History of Time?

Krugman rewrites the punchline:

"It's cats all the way down."

The Ancient said...

Let me restate that:

If you have no interest in your own posterity, it's only about how swiftly you swirl about Richard Dawkin's drainpipe.

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