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11 November 2009 @ 07:21 am
Film at 11/Jobquest! -- The Walls on which the Prophets wrote are cracking at the seams  

Fed Official Sees High Unemployment For Years

-- Associated Press, via NPR

You know, this actually makes me feel better about the job market in the near future.

Remember the Clinton Boom? (I know it's hard, but it really wasn't that long ago!)

Most "official government reports" of that period just foresaw the good times rollin' along. The few who saw the boom as part of a boom-and-bust cycle were dismissed as Chicken Littles. Same with the housing bubble that ranged through both the Clinton and Bush years.

In the same way, the government officials who currently insist that Recovery Is Just Around The Corner sound impossibly optimistic, seeing unicorns and rainbows in every little upward jig of an isolated economic indicator. Not only don't they convince us, they don't even sound like they've convinced themselves.

Official statements like this one sound so much more plausible. They're rooted in the "common sense" observations every one of us makes every day. They're logical extrapolations of the future from current conditions.

Just like those glorious predictions of the Infinite Boom.1

Because, you see, deep down, nobody really believes in change. They don't believe that things will ever be different. They find it hard to believe, in their hearts, that things ever were different, even if they experienced it themselves.2 My parenthetical comment above, about the Clinton Boom? 'Fess up: it's getting harder and harder to remember those times as genuinely prosperous, isn't it? Instead, it's just the top of a downward slope, not so much "better" as "where 'worse' started".

Don't read too much into this post, really. It's just an early-morning knee-jerk reaction to a headline article. Semantically, it boils down to, "hey, the government says this, so it must be wrong."

I suppose that's as good as any other method of economic prediction.

1Somewhere along the line, as Boom shifted into Decline and from there to Bust, the treatment of the "Technological Singularity" in speculative fiction shifted from "The Rapture of the Nerds" to the geek equivalent of Left Behind. See Accelerando, by Charlie Stross, for a good example of the latter.

2This is, of course, the root of Global Warming Denial.

I feel: busybusy
Pakapaka on November 11th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
Heh. Basically seconded. During the boom years, I was poor - the way the prosperity reached me was that "poor" meant "can't afford a lot of luxuries" rather than its post-2000 definition of "scrabbling, uncomfortably near homelessness." I remember at the time feeling cranky about all the predictions about how things were wonderful, how things were going to be more wonderful, and wondering where my prosperity was in all that. And now we've had nine years of there being no economic problems, or a jobless recovery, or a recession which would be over soon, or... gah! Come on, when does this happy corporate bullshit stop?

More realistic projections are... eh. They might make me more depressed but at least they don't make me want to break windows on SUVs.
Your Obedient Serpent: His Master's Voiceathelind on November 11th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
I sympathize, believe me -- but please note that I didn't say "realistic"; I said "plausible". One of my berserk buttons is the phrase, "I'm not a pessimist, I'm a realist."

I don't think "the future will be like the present, only moreso" is a "realistic" approach to prognostication, but it's the shortest and fastest route, and the one that will find the most receptive audience.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on November 12th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
The Clinton years "prosperity" was an illusion created by rising deficits. I said it then and I'll say it, again, hehe.

The reason why economists can get away with this shit is because their "science" does not take into account the weak anthropic principle. So, you almost never hear of an economist talking about the economy in terms of energy transportation. There's this naive and foolish believe - if you want to read about how goofy these people are, I recommend Freakonomics by some Chicago School of Economics bigshot - that human ingenuity can "solve" all problems, even if it violates the fundamental laws of physics. Which is why no economist agrees with any other - there has been literally no attempt whatsoever to ground economics in physical theory.
one in a billionsiege on November 12th, 2009 05:04 am (UTC)
I see economics mostly as "human history, writ in trade". Economies are all about human society, and what people will do to "get ahead," including the nasty things they'll do to each other. People who spend all their time in numbers are just keeping score.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on November 12th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
I certainly don't invalidate the history of economics, but history is mostly concerned with describing the past not predicting the future - which economics is. If economics was the study of history and nothing else, I wouldn't have a problem with it, but it is being used in the present for very important purposes, so I can't say that I find the argument that economics is historical as compelling. It's clearly used for a great deal more than that.
one in a billionsiege on November 12th, 2009 05:48 am (UTC)
Actually, if you were to write it as such, that would be "economic history"; economics is all about who wants what, and what they do to get it. And that's pretty much human history, all over. "I want that, and I'll XXXXX to get it." It's not a science, despite all the attempts at scholarly analysis and the statistical and cyclic theories. It's just a study of cashflow, and making predictions based on what someone thinks is how it works. You could as easily predict the end of the current occupation of Iraq as the end of the current economic depression.
Christopher Bradleycpxbrex on November 12th, 2009 06:06 am (UTC)
No, it's not human history. There are a lot of different ways to describe human history, and certain economics is a part of it, and a big part of civilization, but there are other kinds of history that are equally if not more important, such as artistic and cultural and scientific and ethnographical, so forth and so on. I do not discard the significance of economic history to human history but it's hardly the end of it. Or even the beginning of it.

I try not to get too much into discussions of what something "really is", but it is clear economists make predictions and suggest plans and such in the present. While it is based in history, epistemologically, everything is. All knowledge builds on that which comes before it.

However, my initial statement about the problem of economics still stands. As currently formed by the major forms of economic theory - the Chicago School of Economics, Marxist, Keynesian, etc. - they do not give a whiff of attention to physical laws. There is almost no discussion whatsoever that economics much fit into the known facts about the universe in order to be meaningful. Thus, from the start, the New Economy was crap because it was an economic perpetual motion machine. Likewise, too, the derivatives trading in MBS - they ignored that they were creating an energy debt that outstripped the system's performance.