Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Meme Alert

"With notably rare exceptions (the Holocaust, for example), Europe has been very friendly to the Jews."

Alan Greenspan, defending the system of unrestrained capitalism:
Today’s competitive markets, whether we seek to recognise it or not, are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices, and wage rates.

Henry Farrell proclaims the birth of a new meme.
It’s best not to interpret this as an empirical claim, but a carefully-thought-out bid for Internet immortality. It has the sublime combination of supreme self-confidence and utter cluelessness of previously successful memes such as “I am aware of all Internet traditions” and the “argument that has never been made in such detail or with such care,” but with added Greenspanny goodness. I tried to think of useful variations on the way in to work this morning – “With notably rare exceptions, Russian Roulette is a fun, safe game for all the family to play,” and “With notably rare exceptions, (the Third Punic War for example), the Carthaginian war machine was extremely successful,” but none do proper justice to the magnificence of the original. But then, that’s why we have commenters. Have at it.

The commenters, indeed, come through (with varying degrees of success). Contribute your own!

I think, incidentally, that the essence of this meme lies in the existence of a catastrophic exception to the "rule" being forwarded, which is waved away as something "notably rare" and thus irrelevant in our overall assessment, when, obviously, it shouldn't be. The proximity we came in 2008 to a global financial meltdown is hardly something that can just be shrugged off as exceptional just because there where many more years where we weren't on the brink of economic anarchy. That's like complaining that using the Holocaust to indict German anti-Semitism ignores all those years Jews weren't being put in gas chambers.


Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew said...

Indeed. I imagine a few law and econ-type professors might have some heart attacks right about now.

With notable rare exceptions, cost-cutting measures on deep sea oil rigs are safe and efficient. Sigh.

(Incidentally, I wish there were a way to edit comments.)

Cycle Cyril said...

Greenspan needs an editor.

It would be better said that despite setbacks such as the Great Depression (though made great by government's attempts to ease it) and 2008, capitalism has created greater wealth for both the rich and the (relatively) poor than any other system tried at any time.

To paraphrase Churchill, capitalism is the worse possible economic system except for all the rest.