I still remember back in the 1970s when the news was filled with stories about a $50,000 study to prove the breast milk was good for babies. For those of you too young to remember, back in those days, $50,000 was a lot of money. Also, back in those days, there remained a few old-style media men who weren’t completely in thrall to the wonders of academics and experts and who could laugh at their excesses — and expect us to laugh as well. As it was, though, I’m beginning to think that one of the great virtues of that study was that it was obvious from beginning, to middle, to end that the expert prediction was going to be right: Mom’s milk was predicted to be good for babies and, by gum!, it was.
Maybe all these experts should stick to costly lactation studies because they seem to be wrong about every other damn thing they stick their noses into. I won’t rehash global warming with you, but I will point out it came from the same expert line of thought that predicted global freezing in the 1970s. I’ll also be polite enough to mention only in passing all those experts who assured us right up until the end of 1989 that the Soviet Union was monstrously strong and unlikely to collapse for any reason. And we’ll just pretend it was a little mistake when foreign policy experts opined heavily that Iraq could not be won and that the Surge would be a disaster.
Today’s news again forces us to face just how inexpert those so-called experts are. Given that the world is in a economic down-spiral because of the gloom-and-doom predictions emanating from experts, those same “experts” deserve to be slapped silly for overstating economic problems, thereby giving rise to even worse financial panic:
Steep slide in U.S. Economy, but Not as Dire as Forecast
The United States economy shrank at its fastest pace in a quarter century from October through December, the government reported on Friday, in the broadest accounting yet of the toll of the credit crisis. Consumer spending and business investment all but disappeared, and economists said the painful contraction was likely to continue at an alarming pace well into the summer.
The gross domestic product — a crucial measure of economic performance — shrank at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The decline would have been much steeper — more than 5 percent — if shipments of goods had fallen as sharply as orders did.
What’s amusing is that at least one expert is spinning the story again (and I say this without any personal animus to the named expert, since I have no idea who he is, what he knows, or how prescient he has been):
“The difference between 3.8 and 5.1 percent is the inventory buildup,” Nigel Gault, chief United States economist at IHS Global Insight, said. “My only explanation is that companies could not cut production fast enough.”
With inventory accumulation gone, the economy will contract in first quarter at more than a 5 percent annual rate, Mr. Gault predicted.
I know I’ll forget to do so in three months, but it would be interesting to see whether Mr. Gault’s prediction proves right this time around.
As I grow older, I become less enamored of Franklin D. Roosevelt, since I’ve come to understand how disastrous his financial policies were. Nevertheless, he was a great leader, a true statesman, and he understood one of the key tenets of a stable society: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Panic and despair are bad government