Thursday, January 22, 2009

Comparing 2008-9 and 1981-2

Read David Leonhardt's Wednesday Economic Scene column in The New York Times entitled "It's Bad, but 1982 Was Worse":
But economies are a little like battleships. They turn slowly, and you can often tell where they are going before they get there.
True enough, but then he makes the following assertion:
The job market will almost certainly continue to worsen for most of 2009.
Notice the "wiggle" word. By inserting "almost" in there, what he's really saying is that the economy will continue to get worse for most of 2009 if it continues to get worse. That's useless.

What's going on here is that he knows that turning points aren't very predictable, but he plays to a pessimistic audience by suggesting that it won't come until later (even though if the battleship were turning right now we probably wouldn't know).

All in all, it's very good reading for you folks, but also a good exercise in reading between the lines.

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