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A survey, I suppose

I’m curious about something. Maybe Gentle Readers will be willing to answer a few questions. You know YHB is interested in rhetoric and public persuasion, and in public opinion and so on. So I’m wondering:

  1. Do you currently think that the US is in an economic crisis?
  2. If you do, how will you know when the crisis is over?
  3. Do you currently think that most/many/lots of people in the US currently think that the US is in an economic crisis?
  4. How do you think most/many/lots of people who do think that will know when the crisis is over?

To clarify a trifle, or perhaps to muddy it up… By economic crisis I mean whatever you mean by it. I’m just asking if you would use the term to describe the current state, and whether you think other people would use it, not whether it is correct or accurate or meaningful or comparative or anything. And by when it’s over, I just mean when you imagine you would change from answering the first question yes to answering no. I’m not necessarily looking for a specific set of conditions, although if that’s your answer terrific, but something perhaps more general and personal. When Paul Krugman says so, or when I don’t know anyone who is looking for work, or when my employer starts hiring again as well as when unemployment minus annualized GDP stays under five for three consecutive months or whatever. You don’t need to look anything up, unless you are in the habit of looking up some statistic daily or weekly and basing your sense of the world on that.

I’m not planning to argue with your answers, by the way. You don’t need to defend them from me; I am interested in what y’all’s answers are, not in whether they match my answers or some objectively correct answers.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


1. No. The economy is bad, but not in crisis.
2. n/a
3. I think many people think that there is a crisis, mostly because politicians find it useful to encourage people to think that there is (and that the other guy caused it, and that they can fix it), and this gets amplified through the media.
4. When some major and popular number (like unemployment or the deficit or something) reaches a point significantly on the better side of the historical average, I think politicians will switch to encouraging people to think that the crisis is over (and that they fixed it, and that the other guy's policies will cause another crisis).

1) The US was at a crisis in 2007/2008, arguably even earlier. What we're experiencing now is a relatively stable state in the aftermath of that crisis. We may very well be coming up on another economic crisis related to the uncertainty in Europe, but I don't feel that I understand whether or not the crisis there necessarily implies a crisis here.
2) I count the 2009 crisis as ending roughly about the time that the total full-time employment count (as opposed to "unemployment") nosedive started to flatten out. Things still got worse from there, but there wasn't the sense of there being some other potential phase-change to the economic system still lurking over the horizon.
3) I think probably so, because "economic crisis" has become blurred with "unhealthy economy."
4) Going by that definition, I think that the end of the "crisis" would be associated with signs of economic health: reversal of cuts to municipal services, fewer unemployed or under-employed acquaintances... but (says the cynic) mainly with the end of media pundits using the phrase "economic crisis."

1. Yes.
2. When there is a U.S. economy that isn't steadily damaging the biosphere and that enables all people willing to work to live with dignity.
3. Yes.
4. When they and their kids have jobs, when housing values are rising, and when debt loads are falling.

What Chris said. (I know, that's a cop out, but it matches what I think pretty closely.)

1) No. I second Dan on this one; crisis is almost always an acute (negative) event.
3) Vaguely yes, though since you're asking specifically about whether they would call it a 'crisis' this is really asking how widespread I think my definition of 'crisis' is, and I honestly amn't sure.
4) When a sufficiently clever and powerful meme is launched that the crisis has passed. Note that it'd be very hard to do this until there is a sufficient amount of positive economic news, but I think the actual paradigm shift will be the direct result of a media blitz to spread a new meme that Things Have Changed. The classic example to point to -- very successful in changing the American mindset -- was "It's Morning in America / Our Long National Nightmare is Over".
My worry is that Obama can't pull off the meme because he no longer represents change, while by the same token Romney could.

A postscript to note that

a) if you take away the word 'crisis' and replace it with, say, 'slow-motion shipwreck' or 'if we continue this way, we are likely to end up where we are headed', I'm in agreement with Chris's comment, and
2) in that comment, conditions-4 don't necessarily imply the end of the ongoing disaster implied in conditions-2.

1. I don't think the situation is better than it was in 2008, but we've stopped thinking of it as a crisis and accepted it as the new normal.
2. Crisis is defined by the level of response, attention, amount of panic, etc. Thus, the crisis is over. The PROBLEM, though, is still there.
3. These questions become N/A given a crisis is not an objective state but a subjective state. :)

That said, it'll be nice if they ever start raising NIH research funding levels again. :)

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