When the Rienhart/Rogoff controversy came to light last month, a friend of mine emailed incensed at the whole thing. Because of these two, she claimed, lawmakers the world over had adopted a policy of crippling austerity, harming families and workers while only exasperating the growing divide between the rich and poor.
This response was interesting to me. Austerity isn’t a new theory, many of the same policymakers that have clamored for slashing social welfare programs and cutting taxes have been doing so for longer than I have been alive. In fact, long after I’m gone, I’m sure their will still be large global support for austerity. The paper didn’t ca use this worldview, and debunking the findings wont end it. In reality, the paper merely served as a ten second sound bite wherein some politician or pundit– who never even read the paper– cited its results as the final word.
Granted, we all do this on some level. You find a bit of information or research that confirms what you knew all along and you go with it, never questioning what’s handed to you. The best of us know this about ourselves and rigorously challenge our own assumptions in hopes that our intellectual allegiances remain not with what is familiar or comfortable, but with what is true. To do anything else is not only lazy and dishonest but reveals a lack of faith in ones own convictions.