Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Life, Art, and the Confidence Fairy

By Lewis Sage

Sometimes art imitates life.  Sometimes life imitates baseball.  And sometimes, national politics reflect the insights of the late David Foster Wallace.  [See Wallace on the fragility of hub-and-spoke networks in What I’ve Been Reading (June, 2011).]
“STILL TINE: Gentlemen, what the president is articulating is that what we face here is a microcosmic exemplar of the infamous Democratic Triple Bind… Now, speaking in the very most general terms, if the president’s vision dictates the tough choice of cutting certain programs and services, … the American electorate will whinge.
“SEC. TREAS.:  And we already have an all-too-good idea of what will happen if we attempt any sort of conventional revenue enhancement…
“SEC. DEF.:  Tea-party…
“SEC. TREAS.:  And yet the financial communities demand a balanced budget…”
(Infinite Jest, 440-441)
The only unfamiliar note is “whinge,” but I bet you can guess what that means.  The rest is eerily familiar.  The fictional administration evades disaster by auctioning the naming rights for calendar years, beginning, of course, with the Year of the Whopper.  Not much more unrealistic than belief in the confidence fairy.

Dr. Lewis C. Sage likes intersections. Since 1991, he has taught Law and Economics, Mathematical Economics, and the Economics of Healthcare. A former Fulbright Fellow (Bulgaria 1995-6), he teaches an interdisciplinary Honors seminar, Enduring Questions, and is studying strategy in the NFL draft with faculty and students in Sports Management and Psychology. E-mail:

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This blog lives under the auspices of the Department of Economics whose mission has been to hold high the lantern beaming an "economic way of thinking" onto the world. Selfishness, rationality and equilibrium have been central to the teaching of an economic way of thinking rooted in the Renaissance. And, in this regard, the department has faithfully stayed the course. The intent of this blog, thinking out loud..., however, is to entertain exchanges which may challenge the centrality of economics as we teach it.