The past three years have been a disaster for most Western economies. The United States has mass long-term unemployment for the first time since the 1930s. Meanwhile, Europeâ€™s single currency is coming apart at the seams. How did it all go so wrong?
Well, what Iâ€™ve been hearing with growing frequency from members of the policy elite â€” self-appointed wise men, officials, and pundits in good standing â€” is the claim that itâ€™s mostly the publicâ€™s fault. The idea is that we got into this mess because voters wanted something for nothing, and weak-minded politicians catered to the electorateâ€™s foolishness.
So this seems like a good time to point out that this blame-the-public view isnâ€™t just self-serving, itâ€™s dead wrong.
The fact is that what weâ€™re experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. The policies that got us into this mess werenâ€™t responses to public demand. They were, with few exceptions, policies championed by small groups of influential people â€” in many cases, the same people now lecturing the rest of us on the need to get serious. And by trying to shift the blame to the general populace, elites are ducking some much-needed reflection on their own catastrophic mistakes.