Friday, July 08, 2011

The Smart People Flunked History

I have referred several times in this space to Barbara Tuchman's book, The March of Folly. In particular, I have returned to Tuchman's definition of  "wooden-headedness:"

Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists of assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.

If the reader is frustrated by my references to Tuchman, that frustration is entirely understandable.  Progressives these days are feeling increasingly frustrated. Consider Paul Krugman's most recent column in The New York Times. As Western governments -- including Barack Obama's and Stephen Harper's -- talk of cutting spending, just like families do, Krugman writes:

No, the government shouldn’t budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn’t “put the economy on sounder footing.” They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren’t holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they’re holding back because they don’t have enough customers — a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts. 

Spending cuts have become an obsession and a consensus. And they are, once again, another example of  the March of Folly. We forget that the "smart" people flunked history.

No comments: