Ritchie on economic history

It looks as if the man\’s talents know no bounds! Here he is on economic history:

So let’s examine some facts. From 1950 to 1973 there were no recessions. Not one. From 1980 to date (when neo-liberalism has reigned) there have been five. The 1950s and 1960 were the American dream years.

It\’s a fairly strong statement. And there\’s no real wriggle room there either. From 1950 to 1973 in the USA there were no recessions.

Hmm, OK, well, is that actually true?

Well, first we have to ask ourselves \”what is a recession?\”. In the USA it\’s whatever the National Bureau of Economic Research says is a recession. That is, very simply, what the definition is. The NBER themselves say:

The NBER does not define a recession in terms of two consecutive quarters of decline in real GDP. Rather, a recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.

OK, so, now we have to find out whether the NBER determined that there was a recession or not in the USA between 1950 and 1973. Here we go.

There were recessions in 1953/4, in 1957/8, 1960/61 and 69/70.

Oh dear, looks like Ritchie doesn\’t know what he\’s talking about then.

We can actually go just a tad further as well. He tells us that since 1980 there have been 5 US recessions. If you include the one we\’re in, the NBER agrees.

OK, four recessions in 23 years is one every 5.75 years. Five recessions in 29 years is one every 5.8 years.

You know, you\’d have something of a hard time showing that there was any real difference in the incidence of recessions based upon those numbers now, wouldn\’t you? The Glorious Keynesianism of the post war years set againt the heartless neo-liberalism of the post Reagan period?

D\’ye know, I don\’t think I would mind Ritchie\’s vanity quite so much if there was at least the occasional reference to reality?

9 comments on “Ritchie on economic history

  1. I have to admit I’ve stopped reading him. He’s so economically dense I can see light bending around his blog.

  2. Once again, no one has commented yet on Ritchie’s piece on his own blog.

    Well, no comments have appeared, anyway. Mine still appears to be awaiting moderation.

    More and more of his recent posts seem to be along the lines “I hate the Conservatives”. Given the extent that the BBC use him, I think they ought to be made aware of this fact.

  3. Let’s beat the drum one more time: Illusory Superiority. There’s an allied term, rooted in Catholic theology: that of ‘invincible ignorance’. It’s essentially a refusal to accept any evidential or argumentative counter to one’s belief system. It is defeated by one method, and one method only, which sadly has fallen out of favour in recent times. This is the powerful rhetorical stratagem known to the ancients as ‘a thrupenny one up the bracket’.

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