Economist Predicts Recession Will End This Summer!

Big Think presents a new series from leading global economists: When Will the Recession End?

A death knell for investing, the end of easy credit, the emergence of a regulatory government, socialism. However it's spun, the media frenzy surrounding the recession is as exhausting as the recession itself.

The recession offers all kinds of epistemological questions about our rapacious needs and desires. But there are few more fundamental propositions right now than the most obvious one: when will the recession end?

Big Think recently approached five leading American and international economists for their best predictions on when we will be out of this mess. Watch for their commentary in the Big Think blog in the coming days. After you get their takes, you can start X-ing days off the calendar.

The first prognostication is from Daniel S. Hamermesh, the Sue Killam Professor in the Foundations of Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. Hamermesh's work on macroeconomics has spanned forty years. He has lectured at over 200 universities in 46 states and 27 foreign countries. His seminal text, Labor Demand, was published in 1993. In his 2006 title, Economics Is Everywhere, Hamermesh pens 400 vignettes to illustrate the ubiquity of economics in everyday life. He is also a regular contributor to the freakonomics blog at the New York Times.

So, Professor Hamermesh, when will the recession end?

"The average U.S. recession, from peak to trough, has lasted only about 12 months since the 1940s. Even the double recession of the early 1980s was from January 1980 to November 1982, and that included a significant recovery after July 1980. So I would be very surprised if the economy keeps sliding beyond this summer, since the recession began in December 2007.

That doesn't mean, though, that things will improve greatly. The stimulus package might help accelerate things, but even that depends on when, and whether, and how, all the funds are spent.  More important would be whether financial markets--markets for lending--unplug themselves, so that businesses and individuals can borrow more readily.  When that happens, then things should start improving.

Overall, though, I would be very surprised if we get back below 5.5 percent unemployment any time before 2011, if even then."

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Originally Poe envisioned a parrot, not a raven

Quoth the parrot — "Nevermore."

The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
Culture & Religion

By his mid-30s, Edgar Allan Poe was not only weary by the hardships of poverty, but also regularly intoxicated — by more than just macabre visions. Despite this, the Gothic writer lucidly insisted that there was still a method to his madness when it came to devising poems.

In an essay titled "The Philosophy of Composition," published in 1846 in Graham's Magazine, Poe divulged how his creative process worked, particularly in regard to his most famous poem: "No one point in [The Raven's] composition is rerferrible either to accident or intuition… the work proceeded step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem."

That said, contrary to the popular idea that Edgar Allan Poe penned his poems in single bursts of inspiration, The Raven did not pour out from his quivering quill in one fell swoop. Rather it came about through a calculative process — one that included making some pretty notable changes, even to its avian subject.

As an example of how his mind worked, Poe describes in his essay that originally the bird that flew across the dreary scene immortalized in the poem was actually… a parrot.

Poe had pondered ways he could have his one word refrain, "nevermore," continuously repeated throughout the poem. With that aim, he instantly thought of a parrot because it was a creature capable of uttering words. However, as quickly as Poe had found his feathered literary device, he became concerned with the bird's form on top of its important function.

And as it turns out, the parrot, a pretty resplendent bird, did not perch so well in Poe's mind because it didn't fit the mood he was going for—melancholy, "the most legitimate of all the poetical tones." In solving this dilemma in terms of imagery, he made adjustments to its plumage, altogether transforming the parrot — bestowing it with a black raiment.

"Very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone," Poe explained in his piece in Graham's. "I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven — the bird of ill omen — monotonously repeating the one word, 'Nevermore,' at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone…"

It was with these aesthetic calculations that Poe ousted the colorful bird that first flew into his mind, and welcomed the darker one that fluttered in:

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore…

The details of the poem — including the bird's appearance — needed to all blend together, like a recipe, to bring out the somber concept he was trying to convey: the descent into madness of a bereaved lover, a man lamenting the loss of a beautiful woman named Lenore. With that in mind, quoth the parrot — "nevermore" just doesn't have the same grave effect.

* * *

If you'd like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, click here to review how his contemporaries tried to defame him in an attempt to thwart his success.

Your body’s full of stuff you no longer need. Here's a list.

Evolution doesn't clean up after itself very well.

Image source: Ernst Haeckel
Surprising Science
  • An evolutionary biologist got people swapping ideas about our lingering vestigia.
  • Basically, this is the stuff that served some evolutionary purpose at some point, but now is kind of, well, extra.
  • Here are the six traits that inaugurated the fun.
Keep reading Show less
  • Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
  • Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
  • But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
Keep reading Show less