|What we see is frequently far less important than what we don’t see. This is true
particularly for economic growth, international trade, climate change and poverty.
The Seen Versus the Unseen
By: George Noga – October 23, 2016
Election issues, both real and fake, are viewed through the prism of what is readily seen and are juxtaposed against what is opaque or occult to most Americans. The seen versus the unseen is singularly germane for economic growth. The data Americans readily see are many years of positive economic growth and unemployment rates approaching historic lows. Looking only at what is seen, many people conclude the US economy is performing satisfactorily. But let’s look at the unseen.
The US, in its eighth year of economic recovery, is averaging 2.0% growth in real GDP. Real economic growth since 1945 averages 3.3% and is 4.3% for the years following the prior 10 recessions. Had the US grown at the 4.3% post-recession average from 2009 onward, today real GDP would be $10,300 higher for every man, woman and child in America. The unseen 900-pound gorilla of economic growth is the $26,700 that is missing from every American household each and every year – forever. Had Obama simply achieved average results, we would be infinitely better off.
For foreign trade deals, what we can see are job losses, harm to affected industries and deleterious effects on communities impacted. The pain is visible, immediate, and concentrated, whereas the benefits are unseen, long term, opaque and diffuse. Every American household benefits $2,500 per year just from China – even if they manipulate their currency, subsidize exports and use cheap labor. The unseen benefits to Americans from foreign trade vastly outweigh short-term job losses and other impacts.
For climate change, we see media reports of warming, melting glaciers, polar bears on ice flows, extreme weather events and receding arctic icecaps. The largely unseen is: (1) no warming for 20 years; (2) glaciers receding for the past 150 years; (3) record polar bear populations; (4) no increase globally in insurance claims for weather events; and (5) an increasing antarctic icecap which is 10 times the size of the arctic icecap. Completely unseen are the immediate benefits to humanity that could be realized if the trillions now being totally wasted on infinitesimal reductions in temperature were diverted to human needs such as disease eradication, clean water supply and nutrition.
We are bombarded by media reports and images of poverty, homelessness and hunger although none of these conditions exist per se in America today. What we don’t see is that these conditions (which do still exist) result nearly exclusively from untreated mental illness and from a small cohort of Americans of low ability, i.e. those who struggle to fill out a simple form. These conditions, and their attendant social pathologies, are what result in poverty, hunger and homelessness. Political correctness prevents us from identifying and addressing the real underlying problems.
We see gun violence whenever there is a shooting; we don’t see the 2.5 million times each year guns are used lawfully to prevent or to stop crime. We see that more Americans have health insurance; we don’t see the armies of under employed 29ers and 49ers and the high premiums, deductibles and co-pays. We see the spending but the debt and deficits go largely unseen. We see what is reported by the media; we don’t see many stories covered that run counter to the progressive narrative. We see what we recycle; we don’t see it going into the same landfill as all our other garbage.
What we see is often vapid and illusory and intended to beguile us into accepting progressive shibboleths and dogma. The unseen is frequently much more important.
The next post in our 2016 election series is scheduled for October 30.