Friday, April 18, 2014


Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.


I spend a great deal of time researching, thinking about, and writing about this Great Nation’s economic problems—and sometimes I wonder why. After all, normal people seem to quite content with sports or family or kayaking or sex—directly relevant activities—and don’t give a fig about matters which they believe they they can’t do anything about (and which, all too often are perceived as being downright depressing).

In truth, I don’t know the full answer to my own question—but I’m going to hazard an attempt, if only to justify to myself the considerable time and effort I devote to this area. After all, I’m a thriller writer—or am I more a thinker who writes thrillers? But that is a separate question. 

  • PLEASURE. Whether the news is good or bad, I don’t find economics depressing at all. Indeed I find it intellectually stimulating to the point of being fascinating—so for me learning more and more each day about the U.S. economy (and related culture) is sheer pleasure. Flaws and all, this is a genuinely Great Nation—albeit currently operating way below its potential—and I feel privileged to be able to study it. I did Ancient Roman history as my special subject in school—and always wanted to go back in time and experience it first hand. Well, in the absence of a Time Machine, the U.S. is a very acceptable compromise—and I note that bread and circuses to distract the masses (us) are still very much in vogue.
  • CHALLENGE. Much like some people love puzzles, I love the challenge of economics—and, innate to the way I work, is searching for solutions. That is difficult, but fun—and it is wonderfully satisfying when you do find answers.
  • HABIT. I’m formally trained in economics—I have a masters——so I have a foundation of expertise to build on. That isn’t to say I agree with much of what I was taught—to put it tactfully, a great deal of economic theory is not supported by the evidence—but, at least, when I break the rules, I know I’m breaking them. And I started my degree at the age of 16 over half a century ago so the habit of paying attention to the economy is pretty well ingrained.
  • APTITUDE. They say you gravitate towards things you are good at. Well, there are many things which I seem to have scant talent for—computers being one of them (though I try)—but I feel extremely comfortable with economics, and tend to be more right than wrong when it comes to evaluating this sector. That said, I have scant interest in statistical forecasting, but instead tend to focus on identifying structural problems and trying to find solutions. Here, the good news—at least in my opinion—is that there are answers to almost all the difficulties we face. So why don’t we apply them? Since when were humans rational—let alone observant and well informed? In fact, in many cases we are not even aware of the problem. This has led me to the conclusion that not many people understand economics—including many economists. Most economists are trained to be statistically oriented—and statistics certainly have their uses—but I hold to the view that economics should primarily be focused on human behavior (which dovetails neatly with my writing). If you want to know a little jargon, that makes me a behavioral economist.
  • DUTY. Many would disagree with me, on the grounds that the everyday business of living is demanding enough without keeping track of either political issues or economics data, but I tend to think that it is the duty of every person to be reasonably well informed. I don’t see how democracy can work effectively if voters are largely ignorant (which may explain our current plight).
  • ACTION. I don’t feel remotely helpless when it comes to making a difference in this economy. After all, I’m a professional author and communicator—so, apart from writing my other books, intend to communicate my thoughts about the economy until I drop. Will they have any impact? All communication has some impact (a concept worth thinking about)—and you just have to stay with it and display fortitude. Fortunately, I have precious experience of pushing for change in Ireland—which looked impossible at the time—but which eventually we achieved (though the country went nuts over property some years later and took a couple of steps back). Change rarely happens at a nice regular comfortable pace—and it can be unpredictable, and there will be setbacks. But, it is achievable. As Goethe so rightly said: “Begin it now.” Frankly, we’d better—because if we continue on our present flight path, this wonderful country will be no fun at all for most Americans in an alarmingly short time. And no, that is not a statistical prediction. It is self-evident.


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