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This Soviet Economy

One can almost feel sorry for those who didn't live through the Cold War. Life was simpler then, as there was only one evil. And it generated a rich genre in literature, film and commentary.

One of my favorite stories from this era is the tale of a niece and her uncle, who had been separated in a divided Germany. Under Chancellor Willy Brandt's "Ostpolitik," families finally got to see each other again after decades having been separated by the "Iron Curtain." Under the East German rules, only one family member was permitted to go at a time, so most returned home, back to the dreary East.

The niece meets her uncle, who immediately expresses sorrow for the depredations she must live through under market Capitalism. Puzzled by this, she takes him to a local supermarket, which is just like one of ours, shelves filled with an unimaginable array of products. (The recent introduction of Goldfish Spicy Dill Pickle crackers fully demonstrates that the West has not lost its stride.)

The uncle brushes this off as a "showplace," and life could not possibly be this good. After all, that's what's been drilled into his head day after day for 25 years. So, the niece drives the uncle to the next supermarket, and its just as well stocked as the first one. The uncle still thinks he being duped. So, the niece takes him to another supermarket, and of course, it's just like the first two, but the uncle remains unconvinced. This goes on all day, stopping at store after store, and its getting dark out and now they're getting close to the French border.

So you see the joke.

Unfortunately, thanks to modern media, the same joke is being played here. Since the internet came into being, the media space is as wide as a galaxy, and there's no filtering or curation. It is a bottomless, ever expanding pool of fecal waste, and the fool has an equal voice with the scholar. So people curate their own reality for themselves and there's no oppressive government doing it for them. They do it for themselves. That's a powerful lesson in human behavior by itself.

For three years now, we have had month after month of home runs in employment growth, and yet, a large part of the population is convinced we're actually in a recession. Better still is the belief that the stock market is down, even as the indexes hit new highs. How's THAT for cognitive dissonance? It looks like millions are East Germans now.

Each monthly jobs report, no matter how solid, is greeted in some quarters with derision and falsehoods. Someone constructed this "BLS Bingo" Card as an example of the excuses, robotically repeated month after month by naysayers.

And that is precisely how effective a propaganda machine is. When this is all you've been told, and the only thing you're exposed to, you're going to believe it to your marrow, and no empirical evidence will move you. And the beauty of it is, no one is forcing anyone to believe it.

It would seem that we're cursed. Good luck, America. It seems you can handle only one thing at a time.



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