Does This Make Any Sense to Anybody?

The NYU Development Research Institute has just "refuted" the idea that America is in decline by noting that, in the past, America was not in decline!

So, if my doctor tells me, "You have just contracted a deadly disease," I can refute him by pointing to my previous 53 years of health?! (And by the way, I am not contending that America is in decline. I'm just noting that the graph shown is a ridiculous refutation of the idea that it is.)


  1. In fairness, any time someone says that something "is" happening, what he really means is that it has been happening and is likely to continue. The question about how far back to look is just a pragmatic one. (I'm not denying that the present has temporal duration; it's just that it's too brief to register in our thoughts about social change.)

    The Institute's argument makes some sense to me if they're referring to the popular sentiment that the American economy has stagnated since the 1970s. Otherwise, your critique is spot-on.

    1. Yes, if my doctor told me "You have been very ill for the past 40 years," I would walk out.

      But clearly there is a decline recently in the graph they use. So someone who wants to say "America has been in decline since 2009" would use that graph as evidence, not counter-evidence.


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