Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Notta Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

Both certainty and uncertainty feed stagnation

In a column today, Nick Bunker posits, "The United States is a less economically dynamic place than it was decades ago." He then offers a number of explanations from a variety of authors and researchers. I'll let you read it, but let me toss out some thoughts:
  • Humans crave certainty and familiarity: family and friends, a place to call home, the community around us, a steady job
  • Business craves certainty and predictability: a known competitive environment, steady resources, consistent treatment in regulation and taxation
By contrast:
  • Growth craves opportunity and innovation 
  • Dynamism craves randomness and adaptation
If we desire a slow and plodding economy, then policies that are certain, are unchanging, and favor incumbents are best. At the same time aimless uncertainty – not only do I not know where I'm going, but I also don't know when I'm leaving and how I'm getting there – leads to slow and plodding but also entrenchment, narrow-mindedness, and a longing for days gone by.

All of this may be too mind blowing for cautious politicians worried about reelection. Rather than making us "great again", how about recognizing that things are pretty great now and can be huge later if the certainty of change is embraced? For all the hand wringing about stagnant wages, poor productivity, and shadow unemployment, I'm pretty optimistic about the economy if we embrace dynamic growth rather than past glories. What I worry about is the uncertainty injected by aimless politicians and sclerotic policies.

Not everyone will get behind focusing on the future. But for all the uncertainty of the future, there's no going back. Letting go of the past is scary; not leaving a future for our kids is much, much worse.