Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Religion of Keynesism

For over eighty years economists have studied the ideas of John Maynard Keynes, an economist who advocating government spending to counter recessions.  We have tried an enormous variety of models demonstrating how and when Keynesism would work, but the models seem absurd.  Only if prices never change and people hoard money for no justifiable reason would Keynesism work.  We have purged data from economies near and far, current and historical, but we cannot find evidence that a dollar spent by government generates more than a dollar in overall wealth (see the work of Robert Barro).

There are some instances when government spending might increase overall wealth, but the point is that identifying when those instances would occur has been a daunting task.

After all this--considering all this--a smart and eloquent James Suroweicki writes a The New Yorker editoral on the obvious truth and sanctity of Keynesism (9/5/11, p 24), ridiculing the European Union for not going on a spending spree.  Not only does he call the European Union stupid, he calls them predictably stupid.  Where can one gather such hubris to set oneself on a pedestal above all Europeans and most economists?  Especially from one who wrote The Wisdom of the Crowds! (A superb book, by the way.)

I think I know the answer.  I have come to know what sells in print and what editor believe sells in print.  It is my hypothesis that Mr. Suroweicki does not wish to sound so arrogant, but that is what readers want, and thus that is what editors want.  To sell, one must develop an enemy, attach them with intellectual fierceness, and make it seem that when the last period is typed the issue is settled for any smart reader.  Moreover, one must tell the reader what they want to hear.  From this we get Ann Coulter, and Michael Moore.

This is why, when I read books I know have earned profits, I no longer see the words as thoughts of an author, but the latent desires of the masses of readers and the steward: the editor.

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