I was reading a post by Paul Krugman this morning, and I thought I was reading my own writing. He sounded downright despondent. The article is, On the Political Economy of Permanent Stagnation, and it speculates about how things may not get better. It was the first time I realized that in general, Krugman is a pretty upbeat commentator. And I suspect he will be again. His father died last week and that has got to put a grey patina on one’s world view.
But just because he’s looking at the world from an unhappy place right now doesn’t mean he’s wrong. It is extremely hard not to be discouraged. As he points out, except in Japan, the best we’ve seen from policy makers in the developed world is an attempt to limit damage. No one seems willing or able to do what every introductory economics textbook of the last 50 years says should be done. The situation may actually be better in Greece and Italy and Portugal because things are so bad there. Here is the United States, we are very likely to get absolutely no policy response even if this goes on for a couple of decades. Things are bad but they aren’t that bad.
Or as Krugman puts it:
My evolution on this subject has taken a very dark turn this last year. I used to think that the power elites could abuse the nation for only so long. Eventually, the people would rise up. But there are so many things in the United States that push against democracy. Start with a Senate that is not only undemocratic, it skews highly conservative because people from rural states simply don’t understand (or care) about the needs of the majority of their countrymen who live in urban areas. Add to this gerrymandering that is currently killing our country by allowing both state and federal government to be controlled by conservatives entirely against the will of the people. Add the undemocratic effects of unlimited money in politics. And top it all off with a huge dollop of voter suppression and you have the makings for a government run by a small, radical minority.
I’m sure as time goes on, Paul Krugman will feel better about the state of our nation. But it will take something more than a better mood to change my outlook.