2011-02-06

Endgame? The Great Stagnation?

John Mauldin over at The Big Picture put up an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Endgame. The excerpt is excellent, which is par for the course with Mauldin. I do plan on buying and reading his book. The phenomena he describes in his excerpt smack a bit of the Cowenian concept of "The Great Stagnation." (Mauldin calls it "the great immoderation," and wisely avoids capital letters.)

It will be interesting to see where Mauldin takes this concept in his book. Judging by his blog, I'd say he stops at making the point of lower public debt, saner regulations, lower spending. Basically, all the "home run" concepts that (I think) we all agree on. From the looks of it, though, I think Mauldin's book will fail in its endeavor to kick start important conversations simply because it's too smart.

Cowen can rake in good money selling what amounts to an e-pamphlet using simple language and concepts to call for more parental focus on science. These are easy, feel-good answers that don't really go anywhere but give us all a moral "way out" while costing us absolutely nothing. (No wonder leftists love it!) Mauldin, with his comprehensive charts and talk about futures and price volatility doesn't stand a chance.

All this is just one example of a question that has dominated my thoughts tonight: Why do we insist on lying to ourselves? Why do we think ignoring a problem gets us off the hook?

Folks, you simply cannot lie your way out of conflict. You can't lie to others, and you can't lie to yourself. For one thing, there is a lack of courage involved there. It's cowardly to hind behind lies - even to yourself - to brush aside some difficult thoughts.

It would be great if incentivizing little Johnny to become a math whiz could revolutionize the world; but that isn't going to happen. And what's worse is that Tyler Cowen knows it's not going to happen. So why pretend? Because it dulls the pain and gives us an easy way out. Every political success has that in common.

But the real problem here is that we in the USA have it so good that we're losing the drive to further innovate. We have most of our basic needs taken care of. The effort it takes to change the world is too much for most of us; and for the rest, they'd rather change the world with an easy answer than a hard one.

Similarly, if you have a personal conflict, you won't fix it by pretending that either (a) there is no problem, or (b) the problem is everyone else's fault, not your own. You can't lie your way out of it. You have to confront your reality. It's dishonest and cowardly to do otherwise.

I talk a lot about economics and politics on this blog, but all that stuff is really just a vehicle for a more important message that gets lost in the mix. This isn't about left, right, or center. This is about how we choose to live our lives. I'm never going to change the world, but if I stay true to my beliefs, I just my change my world.

It's easy to live an honest, courageous, and ethical life. Join me.