Your guide to the future of economics, American politics, and public policy.

We may as well get the most important question out of the way: Does the world really need more Substacks? Certainly not. But it does need this one. Do you have too much to read? No problem, cut some of it out. Read this instead.

Because, let’s be honest, most of what’s written today about economics, politics, and public policy is not just wrong but actively makes things worse. While everyone is outraged about everything all the time, the underlying emotion felt by most followers of current affairs, and quite a few participants, too, is confusion. A “paradigm shift” is underway but the commentators who would normally help us to make sense of it are precisely the promoters of the outdated thinking that we so clearly need to move beyond.

Thomas Kuhn famously introduced the concept of a “paradigm shift” in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Whereas scientists and philosophers had believed that scientific knowledge advanced steadily through incremental progress, Kuhn showed that the process was one of long static periods of “normal science,” during which a community of researchers worked mostly to validate their existing paradigm, punctuated by short periods of disruption, when an old paradigm failed and a new one emerged. Far from pushing this process forward, scientists will tend to defend their existing paradigm from challenge and accept new frameworks grudgingly, if at all. As the physicist Max Planck observed, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Colloquially, the insight is often paraphrased as, “Science progresses one funeral at a time.”

Politics and economics lack the clearly stated hypotheses and experimental proof of science, but they experience change in a similar way. Innovative ideas harden into dogma around which politicians and economists build their careers, warding off the heresy of new thinking until they render themselves so irrelevant and inadequate to contemporary challenges that a crisis occurs, then chaos, and then a better framework emerges. In neither science nor politics does positive change occur spontaneously. New information provides a catalyst by rendering an old paradigm indefensible, but experts whose status depends on defending the indefensible have never hesitated to do just that.

Understanding America is your guide through the chaos, written by one of the leading architects of the new consensus that is beginning to emerge.

Continue reading at Oren Cass's Substack, Understanding America
Oren Cass
Oren Cass is chief economist at American Compass.