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One Shot

Kevin Williamson of National Review really nicely illustrates the mental fog afflicting the American elite as we find ourselves mired in recession. Apparently all proposals for temporary measures to fight the recession are a bad idea:

Each has the odor of gimmickry about it, and neither represents a long-term solution to what ails the U.S. economy. (What ails the U.S. economy, you ask? The push for a Swedish-scale state populated by Americans instead of Swedes.) These one-shot cures are, at best, temporary analgesics, at worst distractions from the laborious but needful task that awaits us, which is a deep and necessarily disruptive restructuring of the American economy, our public finances, and the relationship between state and market.

This is smart stuff, and yet totally nuts. Dismissing quick fixes in favor of deep probing restructuring is like crack cocaine for smart people. It feels good. So good it’s addictive. But it’s toxic. Did this recession really start in 2007 because of a push for a Swedish-scale scale? And what explains the occurrence of a recession in Sweden?

But let’s fight analogy with analogy. Imagine a typical middle aged middle class American man as a stand-in for the American economy. By global or historical standards, we’re talking about a fat and happy character. But in some ways a bit too fat. All kinds of dark storm clouds lurk on his health profile. He really ought to exercise more and eat fewer calories and more vegetables. Compared to your average Japanese guy, he’s a public health disaster. And even worse, he’s got a cold! And even worse than that, he wants to deal with his health problems by taking a Tylenol rather than swearing off snacks and beer and meat.

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Except in the real world, that’s not a dodge at all. This guy needs a temporary analgesic a heck of a lot more than he needs a comprehensive overhaul of his diet and exercise. And certainly nothing about letting his cold go untreated is going to make any other problems easier to solve.