Senior Moments Author: Does Forgetfulness Drive the Economy?
By Paul Solman
"Senior Momentologist" Tom Friedman (not the guy from the New York Times, but the noted humor writer) " explains what pandemic amnesia is and how "senior moments" may lead to economic growth. Image by CSA Images/Snapstock/Getty Images.
PBS NewsHour's Making Sen$e page and broadcasts regularly feature the major economics debates of our time. As recently as last week, libertarian video maker John Papola argued that savings and production are the keys to economic growth, a la his idol, Friedrich Hayek. Economic historian James Livingston quickly countered that this was "the nonsense of austerity" and argued on behalf of consumption a la John Maynard Keynes.
And now for something completely different. I asked old friend, longtime colleague and renowned humorist and "senior momentologist" Tom Friedman to write something about economics for this page. He submitted the silliiness that follows.
Tom Friedman: Paul, before we both forget why I'm here, let me get straight to the point: Recent experiments by senior momentologists have proven conclusively that the brains of consumers are periodically flooded with neurochemicals called absentamentaclamaroids. These previously unknown chemicals are produced by 11 (or maybe 12 or 13, we're not really sure) genetic mutations that work together to trigger "pandemic amnesia."
Paul Solman: I think I've heard of this. But I could be thinking of something else.
Tom Friedman: I'm not surprised. Pandemic amnesia leaves its victims bereft of basic knowledge that they once knew well. For example, take the saying, "What goes up must come down." Victims of the disease simply cannot remember this simple truth when they invest their money, no matter how hard they try.
Paul Solman: Remember what?
Tom Friedman: Exactly. So someone like you might buy high and sell low instead of the reverse while you're trying to remember what it is you've just forgotten. Or you might continue to purchase a product that you don't really like. Or a service that has always been a disappointment.
Paul Solman: You mean my own brain chemistry can lead me astray? It can sabotage the very foundation of the free market system, which is freedom of choice?
Tom Friedman: Yes. But the irony is, what's bad for the individual -- which is to say, you -- may be good for the economy -- which is to say, the economy. When absentamentaclamaroids flood the ceremedula, you the consumer/investor are no longer "sadder but wiser." You are neither. And so all those companies that might otherwise go out of business can remain profitable. Or, as economists like to say, it's "a lose-win situation."
Paul Solman: This is terrible.
Tom Friedman: In extreme cases, even too much debt can look awfully attractive. But I ask you, where would our economy be without over-extended consumers?
Paul Solman: Wait, I know the answer to this. It's on the tip of my tongue.
Tom Friedman: Unfortunately, if people came to realize that they're not always in control of their own decision-making, the result could be catastrophic. They might begin to question everything they do, and become paralyzed by indecision, which would have a terrible effect on the economy. So we senior momentologists have decided to lie about our research.
Paul Solman: Lie? But you just revealed the truth! Isn't that the polar opposite of ...?
Tom Friedman: Of what?
Paul Solman: Of ...
Tom Friedman: You're welcome, Paul. It's been a real pleasure.
Tom Friedman (no relation to that other guy who writes for The New York Times) is a world-renowned senior momentologist. He's the author of "1,000 Unforgettable Senior Moments (Of Which We Could Remember Only 246)" and "Senior Moments Hall of Fame: Remembering the Titans of Forgetfulness." He expects to receive a Nobel Prize in something or other any day now.