David Graeber Smackdown Watch: The Gedrosian Desert of Essentialist Anti-Europeanism Edition
In Which I Confess, Once Again, That I Do Not Understand the Argument for the Taper as Long as Inflation is Below Its Target...: Monday Focus

Over at Equitable Growth: Am I Imagining a Golden Age That Never Was?: (Late) Friday Focus

Cthulhu Google SearchOver at Equitable Growth: Not to pick on Mr. David Rennie especially--simply this piece of his struck me as very characteristic of a great deal of what I read in the Economist these days (outside its http://economist.com/freeexchange). But:

Economist: The Nostalgia Trap: Politicians need to stop pretending to angry voters that globalisation can be wished away: "THE public is losing faith in the American Dream...

...Mitch McConnell declared.... Now begins a more important contest, Mr McConnell told Kentucky Republicans: the race to save the centuries-old ‘compact’ that every American generation leaves the next one better off. Mr McConnell declared that promise imperilled by ‘distant planners in federal agencies’, whether they are killing jobs in coal mines or--in their zeal to impose Obamacare--cancelling families’ health insurance plans.... Republicans such as Mr McConnell are right to criticise government when it overreaches. But it is a stretch to suggest that reining in environmental rules on coal, or even repealing Obamacare, can revive the American Dream.... Coal mines, steel mills and factories have closed throughout the rich world, in countries with very different governments, labour laws and environmental rules.... READ MOAR

American conservatives growl that if the country feels all wrong it is because Democrats buy elections with ‘free stuff’ for the feckless poor, destroying the national work ethic. Democrats say no, it is because Republicans are too heartless to care about the middle classes, and because unpatriotic billionaires send jobs overseas.... This is not a call for political apathy. In every country some policies are better than others, and bad ones should be changed.... But let political leaders everywhere tell their publics the truth: the years of easy post-war growth are gone, replaced by competition that cannot be wished away, and so must be met head-on--and ideally harnessed. That will take hard work and new ideas. Time to wake up.

It almost seems as though as other more-nimble journalistic enterprises enter the new media-substantive analysis space, John Micklethwait's Economist leaves it. The Economist I read in the late 1970s--back in the days when the very young Jeff Sachs would tell his students "YOU HAVE TO READ THE ECONOMIST!!"--wouldn't have said anything like:

McConnell declared... ‘distant planners in federal agencies’... are... in their zeal to impose Obamacare... cancelling families’ health insurance plans.... But it is a stretch to suggest that... even repealing Obamacare can revive the American Dream...

The old Economist* would have said, at very least:

McConnell's adversaries point out that the plans ObamaCare required be cancelled either paid out a much smaller share of premiums than average or did not actually insure against the costly expenses of treating truly serious illnesses...

And something like:

According to the Gallup Organization, the number of Americans without health insurance has fallen by a quarter--that is, by 7.7 million--in the first nine months of ObamaCare's implementation...

Or, at least, the old Economist as I remember it would have said that. Perhaps I have fuzzy memories of a golden age of journalism on St. James Street that never really was. But I don't think so: back when I would occasionally teach the late Susan Rasky's Journalism School students, we would hold up the Economist as something that would stay close to reality--and to quantitative reality--rather than succumbing to the lure of writing beat-sweeteners or degenerating into op-ed word-salad pieces.

Here we most aggressive we get is the forthright:

In every country some policies are better than others, and bad ones should be changed...

And there are hints--but not quite statements--that the Economist does not like: "government when it overreaches" thus "killing jobs in coal mines or--in their zeal to impose Obamacare--cancelling families’ health insurance plans" even though it is a "stretch to suggest that reining [them] in..." plus hints that it does not like "farm subsidies, industrial policies to prop up favoured firms, welfare, transfers from rich countries to poor ones and a dose of protectionism..." There is a statement that "Close the borders! Quit the EU! Secede!" are "false remedies". But little more save that "countries’ travails owe more to global forces than to [particular politicians'] opponents’ folly..."

David Rennie is a decade younger than I am, but he was 29 in 1999, back when America's investments in high-tech were paying enormous dividends for the world as a whole and especially for America, and when the burning question of the day was whether the Silicon Valley companies that were at the Bleeding Edge would develop business models that allowed them to make a profit or whether 100% of the benefits from their investments would go to consumers in the form of surplus. He saw the world of the 1990s in which real wages were rising strongly throughout the North Atlantic--albeit more strongly in North America than in Europe, and accompanied by stubbornly-rising income and wealth inequality. Back then in the Clinton years destruction was creative, and globalization was our servant and not our master. Surely a declaration that North Atlantic malaise is due to "global forces" requires at least a sentence explaining why those "global forces" have turned malign since 1999?

I ask the Economist: would an article like this appear in http://vox.com/ or http://nytimes.com/upshot or http://fivethirtyeight.com or http://washingtonpost.com/wonkblog? No. So I ask the Economist: where has your mojo gone? Please stick close to reality. Please be quantitative. Please take stands on the issues of the day.

Be Bagehotian.

If I think you get it wrong in your judgments, I will call you out, true. But if you don't make judgments, I will do even worse. You will then have transgressed the unwritten law, and in response I will use sarcasm--I know all the tricks: dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire. And I will say:

Questo misero modo
tegnon l'anime triste di coloro
che visser sanza 'nfamia e sanza lodo....
Caccianli i ciel per non esser men belli,
né lo profondo inferno li riceve,
ch'alcuna gloria i rei avrebber d'elli...

For if there is one thing that I cannot attribute the gap between what I see today's Economist as being and Vox, the Upshot, 538, and Wonkblog, I cannot attribute it to global forces.

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