Only a crisis—actual or perceived––produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. . . . Our basic function [is] to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.This was free-market economist and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman's insight. But the version of the quote I remembered wasn't Friedman's, it was from Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
In the book, Klein delivers a whirlwind tour of the late 20th century economic response to certain crises arising from natural disasters and political upheavals. If you want to read a recent history with an axe (a really big axe) to grind, I can't recommend The Shock Doctrine enough (here's a link to the google books version).
Klein spends the entire book trying to show that Friedman's prescriptions for a return to economic health were, well, disastrous. But she never refutes his assertion that only times of crisis produce change. I can't remember if she even tries.
Oh yeah, the succinct part:
Working from Friedman's insight, recent events can be seen in a whole new light. Democrats took Friedman's words to heart and have continued to keep alive those ideas that are dear to them, that have been dear to them at least since the New Deal. The collapse of the housing market, with the rest of the world economy in tow, did the rest.
If they are simply using the current crisis to enact the same old agenda, what chance does it have of succeeding? Some? Any?
If the current program succeeds, great, we will all be better off. But if it fails, I hope that thirty years from now we have recovered sufficiently for some hip right-winger to write a snappy critique of the early 21st century response to economic crisis and title it: The Stimulus Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Keynesianism.