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On Predicting the Future

I don't want to get too Noam-y here, but I love Dave Leonhardt's new column raising--if not quite endorsing--the possibility that current economic pessimism is overstated, and that another boom could be hiding around the corner. In particular I find this compelling:

When Bill Clinton convened a conference in the dark economic days after his 1992 election, some of the country’s top economists flew to Little Rock, Ark., to share their vision for the future. As Rahm Emanuel, now the White House chief of staff, likes to point out, they didn’t spend much time talking about the Internet. They could not see the dot-com boom coming.

It'd be dumb to bet on another dot-com style boom. But charts and graphs do tend to overlook big unexpected events. (And that can cut both ways: a big terrorist attack right now would do some rather nasty things to the stock market.)

The same goes for politics. Bill Clinton was finished--until Newt Gingrich was. George W. Bush opposed nation building until he became a nation builder. September 11 led to a permanent Republican majority until Iraq and Obama led to a permanent Democratic majority, which now seems to be fraying. Who knows what's coming tomorrow? The future is a roulette wheel. Thus ends dorm room bull session.

P.S. I seem to be on Twitter now. You can find me at @crowleytnr.