Doing something

June 10, 2009

Frequent commenter (and all around good guy) Dave’s response to my last post inspired this post. His comment (referring to global warming/climate change/CLIMATE CRISIS!)

Doing something about a problem is better than doing nothing.

I’ve heard this a lot recently. This “doing something” must be important. I guess if you are “doing something”, that means you care. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if “doing something” is an effective way of reducing the problem. It doesn’t matter how much “doing something” costs. It doesn’t matter that “doing something” might actually do more harm than good. The important thing is that you are “doing something”.

A recent example: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. President Obama said we had to “do something” (or else) to save and/or create new jobs. If we didn’t do something right now it would get worse. Here are the results:


So much for “doing something”.

I support doing things that may make actual differences, not just feel good measures that, in the end, could do more harm than good.


4 Responses to “Doing something”

  1. kate Says:

    You should know that we won’t be able to do a reasonable analysis of how well this program is or is not working until years from now.

  2. John in IL Says:

    This “reasonable analysis” was done by the Obama team. The warning was that if we did nothing (no stimulus), unemployment rates would rise much higher. I agree that it is a hard thing to determine. Just like those “saved” jobs.

  3. superdave524 Says:

    Well, doing something bad is worse than doing nothing, but even symbolic stuff and the appearance of action can have a positive placebo effect. Although many folks think FDR’s reign was historically “good”, not all agree, even now. Some folks think he tried to kill capitalism; some folks think that by addressing some of the excesses of capitalism, he saved it (and thanks for the “good guy” stuff. There’s room for debate there, too).

  4. Unfortunately, what we’re seeing in this case is a classic example of not thinking through the impact.

    1) Borrow lavishly to flood country with cheap money

    2) Borrowing lavishly puts country severely in hock

    3) Country being severely in hock makes it more likely country will default

    4) People who lend country money start demanding higher rate to compensate for increased risk of country defaulting

    5) Higher rate drives up cost of borrowing for everyone

    6) Oversupply of money drives up prices

    7) Higher interest rates + higher prices = hello, Carter era.

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