CNN Is Stupid, and Thinks You Are, Too

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In an article today titled It's official: Recession since Dec. '07, CNN writer Chris Isidore tells us that it is now "official" that we are in a recession because the National Bureau of Economic Research says so.

And after all, he tells us, the NBER is "a private group of leading economists charged with dating the start and end of economic downturns." So therefore, it's official! Sounds good to me!

The word "official" necessarily implies some sort of authority; since we're talking about things the government's involved with it, it will imply to most people that it's an official government conclusion.

But it's not true. There is no such thing as an "official" recession. Or if there is, I've never seen it in the last decade of looking, and no one's been able to find it when I've asked, and certainly it's never been reported that I've been able to find. It's just blindly accepted that it's "official."

Now, I am not saying we're not in a recession. I think we are. I'm not convinced it started in December 2007 -- but then again, I also disagree with the NBER that the 2001 recession began in 2001, instead of 2000. But I am not finding fault with the NBER's analysis here, I am just noting the fact that there's nothing official about it.

That is, this is the NBER's official recognition of a recession, but it is "official" for no one but themselves. If a competing group of economists wanted to say the recession officially started in June 2008, that would be no less valid.

Isidore goes on to say, erroneously, that "Many people erroneously believe that a recession is defined by two consecutive quarters of economic activity declining." But there's nothing wrong with that at all. It is as valid as what the NBER says. It's less interesting, and less useful. But it's no less "official," because -- once again -- there is no such thing as an "official" recession.

It's like the claim that Pluto is not a planet. It's not official, and it's not true. What's true is that a group of scientists claimed for themselves that Pluto is no longer a planet. Their decision has no bearing on whether Pluto actually is a planet.

If you want to define "planet" in a way such that it includes Pluto, that is absolutely valid and reasonable. Just because a bunch of people you didn't elect or choose to represent you in any way get together and decide Pluto is not a planet, doesn't mean you have to accept it.

If you want to be a sheep and just accept what people tell you, fine. Or if you agree with the conclusions of others based on your own thoughts, also fine. But telling me I should agree just because someone says so? Not fine.

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