If we could preserve only one sentence…

Ian Leslie writes to me:

John Lanchester in the LRB:

“Richard Feynman was once asked what he would pass on if the whole edifice of modern scientific knowledge had been lost, and all he could give to posterity was a single sentence. What axiom would convey the maximum amount of scientific information in the fewest possible words? His candidate was ‘all things are made of atoms.’ In a similar spirit, if the whole ramshackle structure of contemporary macroeconomics vanished into thin air and the field had to be reconstructed from scratch, the sentence which packs as much of the discipline into the fewest possible words might be ‘governments are not households.’ “

At the very least I would ask for “In the short run, governments are not households.”  I might even consider “Today is a long run from some time back.”  And I have a suspicion what Scott Sumner would say.

Throughout keep in mind that 99% of all historic cycles have been “real business cycles,” and that sovereign bankruptcy is a historical norm, even though today many major sovereigns are quite creditworthy.


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