Cox, a Federal Reserve economist and adviser to the CATO institute, presents, with Dallas Morning News business reporter Alm, an aggressively rosy report on the nation’s economy.
I’m all right, Jack, and so are you, they say. Forget eroding living standards, foreign competition, rapacious CEOs, hedge fund crashes and endemic downsizing. Times, on the whole, have never been better, say the authors, and to prove it they offer a plenitude of charts, tables, statistics and figures. It is in the nature of capitalism that there are occasional disruptions, such as corporate downsizing, which they call “churning,” but this is still the best economic system, they claim: “Layoffs aren't a sign of failure, not for the economy, not even for most workers.” Layoffs take place beside job creation. That a midlevel manager fired from AT&T might, with luck, finally end up as a low-level associate at Wal-Mart is part of the churn, not part of “the hard numbers that define broad trends, averages, medians, per capita figures and rates of change.” Good times, the numbers say, are here. We have more money than ever. We spend more for stuff (like VCRs, health care and stealth bombers) and we spend more time at leisure. In the triumph of capitalism, minorities and women are doing better, too. As we change from a labor to a service economy, technology is improving life faster than ever. Don’t mess with success, the authors say. Just protect property rights, keep taxes low, and eschew more regulation. There are, though, some unasked questions. Yesterday Standard Oil had to be dismembered; would a merger of Exxon and Mobil be a good thing today? Will the next decades be like the past 20 years or is something fundamental changing? Never mind. Just look at the numbers.
Pangloss and Pollyanna tackle what Carlyle once called “the Dismal Science” in a polemic sure to attract dissent.