I loved this summarizing tease for David Brooks's column this morning: "Government doesn’t profit from experience.... It should try learning the way businesses do."
You know, such as the way U.S. business learned from the Depression of 1807, the 1815-1821 Depression, the 1830s Depression, the 1870s Depression, the 1890s Depression, the Depression of 1920-21, the Great Depression of the 1930s, the 1970s recession, the 1980s recession, and now the Great Recession of 2008-?, which was propelled--as were preceding recessions/depressions and other assorted financial panics--almost entirely by business's limitless greed.
Yet Brooks's Great Befuddlement hardly stopped there. In the column's conclusion, Brooks advances the Socratic observation that "The first step to wisdom is admitting how little we know and constructing a trial-and-error process on the basis of our own ignorance." That's good advice. And it's a damn shame that Brooks doesn't follow it, as evidenced earlier in his column: "Nearly 80 years later, it’s hard to know if the New Deal did much to end the Great Depression."
No it is not. Heaps of empirical economic data demonstrate unequivocally that the Roosevelt administration's rather tepid Keynesian interventions at least alleviated the depression to the measurable extent of those interventions; later, it was the forced, massive Keynesianism of the Second World War that decisively ended the wretched thing.
This academic consensus is as solid among economic historians as global warming is among climatologists. Yet "nearly 80 years later," soft ideologues continue to advance the political agnosticism that "it’s hard to know if the New Deal did much to end the Great Depression." The hard ideologues deny Keynesianism's benefits altogether.
Again, it's instructive to note Brooks' Socratic underpinning: "The first step to wisdom is admitting how little we know ..." Why instructive? Because one might further note that in Plato's 'Dialogues,' most of Socrates's deliberations ended in an inconclusive fog, while the rest finished in a wholly predetermined fanfare. In Brooks's dialectical case, he feigns the former--"admitting how little we know"--but ends with the wholly predetermined latter--"it's hard to know."
Well, it is if one refuses to know.