Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Exogenous Factors?

This blog post has been making the rounds on facebook lately. It troubles me on multiple levels, because (a) it seems to resonate with people in spite of its fundamental flaws, (b) if this is scholarship then we are not demanding enough of our scholars, and (c) the author is pretty darned condescending. (On twitter, I would shorten that to: Stupid! Unprofessional! Bad Man!) I hope this young man has a decent thesis advisor. I would challenge his analysis of cause and effect in describing the policies of the 30s-70s. I mean, many people refer to it as the "postwar" era for a reason. If WW2 is what you have in mind to trigger a "political revolution", please count me out.
As you can see in the chart, between the 1930’s and the 1970’s, the United States drastically reduced economic inequality. It redistributed wealth from the top to the middle and the bottom, resulting in consistent wage increases and consequently consistent consumption increases. This allowed investment to be put to effective use–because the bottom and the middle were rising, they were able to support the additional spending that business owners needed to successfully expand. This was accomplished through a series of policies that if they were proposed today, would strike most Americans as socialist–Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, strong union rights, high minimum wages, high marginal tax rates on the wealthy (with a 90% top rate under Eisenhower), and strong enforcement of financial regulations and anti-trust laws.
As I wrote the first time this article was presented:
I'd like the author to consider -- I know, heresy! -- the impact of WW2 on his narrative. Because if we have to fight and win a global war that wrecks every other country of substance in the world, decimates both industrial capacity and male population, and leaves us relatively unscathed with a full generation headstart on recovery before they begin to catch up... well, I'd just like to know if that's what they mean by "political revolution".
I'm baffled that someone could write this as a PhD candidate.

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