Archives for: June 2012, 18
I have no memory of the earliest part of my life in the small village where I was born. I didn't grow up there. My very young parents took their new-born baby and moved away to other opportunities. In some ways, my childhood experiences were as a visitor to my grandparents. That made the environment one of a sort of iconic measure of a different normalcy.
My grandparents had a large back yard with a garden and a small one row vineyard. A bird feeder and stone birdbath could be seen out of the kitchen window. A small shed in a corner of the yard was just large enough to house a grass mower and a few other lawn care utensils. I grew up associating my grandparents with the magic garden, filled with grapes, vegetables, and birds.
At the end of the street was a little corner store with just enough stock to serve the local neighborhood. Those old enough to remember ancient episodes of Dobie Gillis will recall the little store owned by Dobie's dad. And each midday, everyone set their clocks by the village fire whistle. The whistle went off and clocks went to noon.
That whistle came to represent a minor regional legend of sorts. There was normal time, and the strange varying time of the village of my grandparents.
The source was a primitive feedback loop. Every morning, a local fireman would stop along his walk to work and look through the store window of the local clock shop. The clocks had all been fastidiously set the day before. They did not differ from each other by as much as a second. The fireman would set his pocket watch by the clocks, to the exact second, then walk the rest of the way to work. Each day at noon, the fireman would pull the whistle cord. Most folks in the village would set their watches and clocks by the fire whistle.
Among those setting clocks by the fire whistle was the owner of the little clock shop. Little by little, over time, the clocks in the village became a little off, then a little more off. The lack of an outside source put them outside the correction of the outside world. Gradually, more of the village folk stopped depending on the fire whistle. Those who kept the practice, putting their faith in the trusty whistle, might have occasionally wondered why radio and television stations started their programs at the wrong time. Crazy networks, can't even start programs on time!
I recently wrote a piece presenting evidence about the correlation between deficits and economic recovery. I focused on the Roosevelt recovery from the Great Depression, concentrating on the 1937 interruption to that recovery, which was caused by a brief government focus on reducing deficits. I went on to the 1941 - 1945 massive surge in government spending, which ended the depression completely. I then looked at more recent evidence, showing the correlation between the Obama recovery from the Bush recession and the stimulus program. The evidence seems to suggest that, with some exceptions, deficits are good during economic bad times. The bigger the better. And surpluses to pay down the national debt are good during prosperous times.
Any part of those correlations can be explained by other coinciding factors. My proposition was that the amassed volume of consistent evidence points to a rational economic policy. Still, any discussion is an invitation to alternate explanations of what we know happened.
Instead of an alternate explanation, the note of disagreement by an honored guest and occasional generous contributor was oddly dismissive:
If we could only do a $2 Trillion stimulus now, maybe we could save the economy. Okay, back to reality now.
That was it. The rest of the comment went to another subject, the evils of government waste.
It occurs to me that a lack of contact with actual evidence produces that sort of easy dismissal. Cable television provides an easy environment in which opinions are no longer tested against evidence. Reality is tested only against consumer desires.
You don't like the idea that climate change is a mainstream scientific consensus? Change the channel. You think voter fraud is a massive problem? Some commentary will depart from fact to reinforce the need to make what is a basic right for many of us into a privilege that must be earned by others. It should be harder to vote, at least for minorities, or the elderly, or anyone who rides a bus to and from work. And, of course, if you don't like an economic theory that goes against the grain, there is no need to research for evidence to test. The television remote provides an easier way.
A few years ago, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer gave a speech praising the new meme.
What Fox did is not just create a venue for alternative opinion. It created an alternate reality.
No need to visit actual data when you can dwell in the parallel world of your choosing, spending quiet afternoons chasing garden gnomes across the magic yard of some long ago village conjured up from the mists of childhood memories. Where facts can vanish with a dismissive wave and the time is determined by the fire whistle of the mind.