Saturday, February 28, 2009


This kind of idiocy always makes me crazy. In a nutshell, it's claimed that the Dow Jones drops under Democratic governments in the US and goes up under Republican governments. And this is supposed to be the Democrats' fault: they are bad in government because the Dow goes down.

Let's assume, for the moment, that the numbers are accurate and that this is a fair measure of whether a government is good or not. But notice what's done here -- what's always done in these sorts of arguments. The individual people who made choices that drove the Dow down are let entirely off the hook. As if they are helpless automata, incapable of making and being held responsible for their own choices. In this particular argument, the assumption cuts both ways. When Republicans are in charge, they are the source of Dow success, not the careful choices of other people (investors and so on). Similarly, when Democrats are in charge, they are the source of Dow decline, not the mistaken choices of other people.

In this argument, and many others like it, the fact that an economy is no more -- and no less -- than the choices of individual people (and collectives of individual people, of course; don't mean to ignore them) is ignored, which serves to alienate people from their own responsibility. You want to know why the Dow's going down? Because a lot of individual people are choosing to save themselves rather than try to help everyone else out. Insofar as that's bad -- making no assumption as to whether it is, or why if it is -- then these people should be blamed. Not the government.

(And, again, it's just weird to see the way this assumption is wielded against people's success as well as their failures: success is similarly not due to wisdom or care or responsible conduct, but due to the careful guidance of a paternal government.)


mnfu said...

Who's pushing this sort of thing now? Did the Dow not do fairly well under Clinton?

ADHR said...

Oh, the numbers are probably garbage. For example, it doesn't examine percentage change -- i.e., it looks at the start and end points, but doesn't calculate how effective each given administration was at helping or hindering Dow growth. My point was that, even assuming the numbers work, it's still a terrible argument.