Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Politics And The Economy

Ezra Klein's comprehensive article on the response to our economic crisis is worth a read. The last paragraphs are significant:

These sorts of economic crises are, in other words, inherently politically destabilizing, and that makes a sufficient response, at least in a democracy, nearly impossible.

There’s some evidence for this internationally. Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University, examined 31 elections that took place after the 2008 financial crisis and found that “voters consistently punished incumbent governments for bad economic conditions, with little apparent regard for the ideology of the government or global economic conditions at the time of the election.” Just look to Europe, where the path to ending the debt crisis and saving the euro zone — the group of nations that use the currency — is clear to most economists but impossible for any European politician.

That isn’t to say that this time couldn’t have been different or that next time won’t be. But it is no accident that these crises so often turn out the same, in so many countries, with so many types of governments, who have tried so many kinds of responses.

In general, the policies that are vastly better than whatever you are doing are not politically achievable, and the policies that are politically achievable are not vastly better. There were many paths that could have been taken in January 2009, and any one would have made this time a bit different. But not different enough. Not as different as we wish.

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