Choose one – it really doesn’t matter much for how quickly we emerge from the current economic doldrums. The reason is that the recovery, however etiolated, has been underway for some time and will continue its anemic growth until some tipping point is reached and a recovery has been generally acknowledged. It is folly to believe that the tipping point is under the control of one person and his policies. There is a certain arrogance in believing that the President of the United States has the capability of controlling the US economy, let alone the global economy.
And yet that’s exactly what many Americans seem to believe. Maybe the belief in the omnipotence of the President is based in a delusion that anything is within the purview of the most powerful person on the planet. Maybe it’s the yearning to believe that someone is in charge or maybe it’s just ignorance. The reality is that the economy is bigger than any one person, their administration or for that manner any governmental institution. Didn’t the Soviet Union clearly demonstrate that?
It is naive to believe that a new administration can affect change that will significantly shape the trajectory of the current recovery. I understand that it’s disconcerting that some things are beyond our control. As a species we don’t like that reality. The economy will recover at some point. Maybe it won’t be in 2014. Maybe it will be earlier or later, but a recovery is inevitable and the person in the Oval Office at the time will receive the credit regardless of their role. That being the case, let me be the first to congratulate President (Obama or Romney) on the economic recovery and the vindication of their policies and leadership.
In a posing two years ago, “Obama, Afghanistan and the second law of thermodynamics”, I noted that the second law of thermodynamics may be a construct for understanding the war in Afghanistan. The metaphor may have been a stretch then, as it probably is now, but the lesson is that it is easier to tear something down than it is to build it, e.g. systems maximize entropy. In the case of the economy, it’s easier to prevent the next recession though sound fiscal policies than it is to accelerate the current recovery. The proper debate should focus on long term solutions to constructing a sustainable economy and forgo discussions of quick short term fixes. Unfortunately, that’s no way to win an election.