The uselessness of politcal commentary

Ok I tried. I went into the political arena. And doing so reaffirmed for me why I steer clear. This is just a brief note to tell you why.

Let me frame it this way:

What if I told you that I thought a lack of civic responsibility of our politicians was a root cause of their inability to meet our collective needs – and then I went on to give examples that you found unconvincing? Isn’t it true that you could then marshal a whole different set of anecdotes and perspectives on how to look at the situation that provided an equally plausible framing?

I think this is the big issue with political analysis, it’s highly subjective and greatly determined by one’s priors – i.e. one’s political ideology and experiences.

We saw this during the financial crisis in the political economy realm. People in the blogosphere including myself argued for a more robust response to the criminogenic side of the crisis. Further, we argued that it was wrong to reward failure by propping up the too big to fail banks and allowing them to return to business as usual with a few added constraints.

The powers that be listened to these arguments. They even invited bloggers to the Treasury Department. But ultimately they paid no heed to any of those arguments and went right ahead with saving the system the way they saw fit.

10 years later, the US is doing the best of the crisis countries economically and it is even doing better than many non-crisis countries to boot. Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner could legitimately say, “I told you so.”

Now, my riposte would be, “but your way of dealing with things left citizens appalled and feeling disenfranchised, which in turn led to Trump.” But that’s an opinion, isn’t it, one that’s subjective and greatly determined by my own priors – i.e. my ideology and experiences. You and I could argue this until the cows came home and it wouldn’t matter. We didn’t make those decisions, we aren’t making those decisions and we won’t be making them in the future.

So, on some level, that kind of commentary is useless. It might make us feel good to work through a situation intellectually and believe we have a ready set solution. But, at the end of the day, that intellectual exercise won’t change anything.

Years ago, I gave up on political commentary for just this reason. I feel like predicting what the Fed will do and how the economy will progress is something I’m good at and something that can add value. And so I concentrate on that.

For what it’s worth though, I will add that, like reader Ryan,  my concern is that change after Trump, when we get it, will be violent or radical. But, I think violent or radical change is, in fact, likely. And we won’t be better off because of it either.

For now, economically, things are pretty good. Let’s see how long this can hold.

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