Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Pragmatism AND Perdition

"euphemism (n.)
"1650s, from Greek euphemismos 'use of a favorable word in place of an inauspicious one,' from euphemizein 'speak with fair words, use words of good omen,' from eu- 'good, well' (see eu-) + pheme 'speech, voice, utterance, a speaking,' from phanai 'speak' (see fame (n.)).
"In ancient Greece, the superstitious avoidance of words of ill-omen during religious ceremonies  …" (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Brad DeLong ("Pragmatism or Perdition", Feb 29, Project Syndicate) is peddling his (and co-author Steve Cohen's) new book. Yay! Another book on economic policy! Just what we needed.

DeLong begins his article this way:
"It is almost impossible to assess the progress of the United States economy over the past four decades without feeling disappointed. From the perspective of the typical American, nearly one-third of the country’s productive potential has been thrown away on spending that adds nothing to real wealth or destroyed by the 2008 financial crisis."
Something must have been very, very wrong, then -- the co-authors perceptively realised. But what?

Big mystery. Nobody knows:
"[I]deologues of the left and the right disagree over what went wrong."
Thank God, then, D&C dug way deeper:
"[M]y co-author Steve Cohen and I show that the problem is even more fundamental".
Drum rolls...
"Poor US economic performance is not the result of any particular ideology, but of allowing ideologues to guide public policy."
No shit! Amazing!

So, what's the solution D&C suggest? No, no. Don't tell me. Let me guess! To allow ideologues of the centre to have a go!?

Nope! This is what:
"Cohen and I argue that there is a better alternative to the ideological approach: pragmatism.
"Rather than searching for overarching rules or a grand theory, look instead for what is likely to work – and make policy accordingly."
It's not ideologues of the centre -- silly me -- but pragmatists. "Ideologue" is such an inauspicious word. Pragmatist is shorter and better-sounding: more favourable. Let pragmatists have a go.


For some reason I'm reminded of an interview Yanis Varoufakis gave last year to Aaron Bastani. After forsaking social democracy as a poison, Varoufakis says:
"The problem with the depoliticisation of power is not that it [i.e. power] becomes apolitical, but it becomes authoritarian …".
… Unintentionally transparent, too! -- I'd add.


DeLong's article wasn't much of a read; looking at the bright side, however, at least I learned of another way to save meself some bucks.

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