June 8, 2021
By John Tamny
John Lucas was the No. 1 pick in the 1976 NBA draft after an All-American career at the University of Maryland. This most remarkable of athletes was also an All-American tennis player.
Lucas proved to be a very good NBA player too, only for a bad cocaine habit to have arguably restrained his greatness. What’s important about Lucas’s story is that it was during the relatively flush times of NBA stardom that he had the means to develop a crippling habit.
Conversely, his “recessions” were when substance abuse got him waived, including from a 1986 Houston Rockets team that made it all the way to the NBA Finals. Lucas ultimately kicked his habit once out of basketball, and prosperously returned to the sport as a head coach.
As good as Lucas was as a player, his career would have lasted longer if not for the cocaine addiction that coincided with it. Once out of the league, as in once “unemployed,” Lucas corrected his bad habit on the way to a previously mentioned stretch as a well-paid head coach.
I’m writing about this today as a reminder of an actual truth about recessions… They’re not a bad thing. Most often, recessions signal revival… This was certainly true in Lucas’ case.
Respect Real Recessions
An economy is but a collection of individuals, and recessions are usually a bullish signal of individuals fixing bad habits. Recessions are recovery. Think about it… And also please think about what frequently happens to us during relatively prosperous times. Some of us develop bad habits… We sleep later, exercise less, work less carefully, and perhaps work less than we do during the bad times. Precisely because earning money is easier during the good times, our personal habits sometimes aren’t as strict.
Applied to Lucas, he was a very good NBA player in addition to being a cocaine user. He could do both until he couldn’t… As individuals, success sometimes affords us habits or lack thereof that aren’t sustainable if long-term success is the goal. Thus the beauty of recessions…
Far from a bad word, it’s during recessions that our individual IQs rise, and we’re forced to come to terms with what we’ve been doing wrong. Sometimes recessions coincide with a job loss that either teaches us how to not act in a future job – that, or unemployment forces us to find a new kind of work more commensurate with our talents.
Whatever the answer, or whatever the problem, recessions get a bad rap. It’s during the difficult times that we realize our errors, and having realized them, we plant the seeds for success. Without his own personal recession, Lucas would have felt less of a need to clean up habits that had become more than problematic.
All this came to mind while reading a recent Wall Street Journal front-page piece about a U.S. economic rebound that’s “without historical parallel.” Those were the words of Allen Sinai, chief global economist of Decision Economics, as expressed to Journal reporters Gwynn Guilford and Sarah Chaney Cambon. The reporters must have found themselves a bit puzzled by Sinai’s comment… Indeed, what we experienced in 2020 was quite simply not a recession.
One unassuming bunch of 80 tech stocks has slain every other comparable group — for 17 years. And one rogue analyst is naming names right here.
A recession is yet again a period when we correct past mistakes on the way to better times. But that’s not what happened in 2020. The economic contraction from last year was a clear consequence of the imposition of command-and-control by nail-biting politicians gulled by panicky health experts.
Even though economic growth has always been the greatest enemy death and disease have ever known, even though political force is wholly superfluous when something threatens (really, who needs to be forced to avoid human contact that could result in sickness?), and even though market signals from China were crystal clear that a very real virus wasn’t very lethal, politicians quickly locked the American people down.
It never made sense what they did, and even members of the allegedly science-reverent Left are starting to acknowledge what alleged “science deniers” always knew – that there was no correlation between lockdowns and better health outcomes. (Not that better health outcomes would have even justified the taking of personal and economic freedom, but that’s another column.)
For now, it must be stressed that there was no recession in 2020. In truth, there’s always economic collapse any time personal and economic freedom is replaced by centrally planned force. Implicit in the economic-rebound stories of the moment is that the thankfully former Soviet Union routinely experienced economic booms after busts. Slow to non-existent growth is the persistent norm when command-and-control places markets.
Sinai is gobsmacked at an economic rebound “without historical parallel,” but such wonder just reveals yet again how bankrupt the economics profession is… Really, what’s at all surprising about economic activity resuming (sometimes in frenzied fashion) once central planning is replaced by freedom? No wonder most economists think government spending powers economic growth. No wonder most economists think war is stimulative. They do so because they don’t get what drives progress in the first place.
For those who aren’t credentialed, the simple answer to growth is freedom from limits on production. In other words, the default position for free people is to prosper.
Do free people sometimes err? Most certainly they do, which is why recessions, when untouched by politicians, have always been so healthy. When pols don’t mess with the recovery that is recession, a boom always follows.
Let’s not insult what’s healthy (a recession) with the human-rights tragedy that revealed itself in 2020. They took away our freedom… needlessly. That we’re now prospering again with some of our freedoms back is a statement of the obvious. The joke is on the economists… as always.
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Contributor, American Consequences
With Editorial Staff
June 8, 2021