Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend Open Thread

You know you have waited all week for it and here it is: it's time for the RoR open thread. To kick off the discussion, here's the unhappy question that I've been struggling over: are we looking at a two to three year recession, or a ten year depression?


Burgess Laughlin said...

An even broader question is: How can one, in general, predict future social and culture events, both what will happen and when it will happen?

This question came up in the most recent study group on Study Groups for Objectivists (here).

How were Drs. Brook and Ghate able to predict (apparently not with a lot of confidence either way) that we have perhaps as little as 20 years to turn around US culture?

Perhaps making predictions about subsets of the whole culture--e.g., the economy--is more feasible. I don't know.

In summary, what does one need to know in order to make a prediction?

Mark said...

I think that the most important information in anticipating the depth of the current economic crisis is to evaluate government's response to it. Because that's ever-shifting (e.g., the vicious cycle of different governments trying to outdo each other in how egregiously they can intervene), it's probably impossible to predict until things shake out.

Unfortunately, given the "gift certificate" event of the American government forcing unwilling banks to sign the letters authorizing "partial nationalization" (or, perhaps, the explicit institution of fascism), I'm personally not very hopeful. I'm anticipating years and years of pain, and am currently reevaluating my profession to identify something that might help myself and my family weather the storm.

Mike said...

I actually believe the opposite will happen: for 2 or 3 years, things will go INCREDIBLY well, mainly because our economy is driven so strongly by consumer confidence and the Walter Duranty media (thanks dismuke) will be putting in overtime hours telling the populace how excellent things are with Obama in charge. People will spend and consume and borrow and buy, and they will do it with a smile on their face because the Man on the Tee Vee told them President Obama will prevent anything bad from happening.

After that, however, the rotten core of American society will no longer withstand testing blows from without or within. I predict a precipitous collapse that will swallow the 2012 election cycle. Whether it will be a Dust-Bowl-style Depression or something much worse is yet to be seen. I know this much: I am going to spend my discretionary income this autumn and winter on guns and ammunition. When it comes time, those assets will be worth, well, my life, and that of my family.

I have not made a prediction based on a hypothetical McCain victory, because I believe that is an unrealistic scenario at this point.

IchorFigure said...

I've started to refer to this "crisis" somewhat jokingly as "the Great Recession". Seriously now, the potential laws Obama and McCain both have in mind should make anyone deeply concerned. Particularly cap and trade.

Mark Mayhugh said...

The government reaction will be the biggest issue. If the government can somehow see the wisdom of minimal intervention, then the recession can blow by quickly.

If we end up with heavy government intervention, like in the great depression, we will again see what could have been a short term problem lasting a decade.

With this in mind, we should think very carefully about who to vote for in the coming election to minimize government intervention and growth.

Jim May said...

The best way to predict the future is to look at the next generations. How many independent thinkers per capita are coming out of this year's graduating class?

In the 1930's, Americans still had a relatively strong Enlightenment cultural base. That is the "antidote" referred to in Dr. Peikoff's "Ominous Parallels". And yet, even with that factor, there was fear of fascism among many who decided that the New Deal "soft" socialism was a safer bet than that alternative.

Now that antidote is just about gone? It has been fading so fast over the last eight years that I could almost see it happening in real time.

What do you think our current youth, steeped in envirocultist primitivism like the Wandervogel before them, are going to do when faced with privation now? What do you think will come of the ones following them, whose imperious shrieks of want are heard from one end of the mall to the other today? Something tells me that they won't be happy standing in soup lines.

Until recently, 40 years seemed to be the consensus minimum among Objectivists I spoke to. If they are saying that we may have as little as 20 years, well that's what I thought Europe had left in 2004.

My retirement age is three decades off; I'm getting to the point where I think ARI donations may have the best likely ROI out of my options.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Jim, thank you for addressing my particular issue. I agree with many of your comments. Some points raise additional questions.

E.g., how would one go about counting the number of independent thinkers in a particular graduating class? I know of no way to do that.

Did the students of Objectivism you have spoken to say why they estimated 40 years were left in which to turn around the culture? Or did they mean 40 years until collapse of the culture? Drs. Ghate and Brook are saying 40 years until collapse, and half that to begin turning the culture around before collapse becomes inevitable.

Either way, neither they nor others have explained how they came up with their figures.