As regular readers will know (since I post this quote about once a month), I’m a fan of Milton Friedman’s sage advice to his fellow monetarists when they were still voices in the wilderness: “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. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”
So it’s deeply gratifying to see that Barack Obama’s pick for White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is clearly no slouch either when it comes to seeing the opportunities in big crises. Here he is doing an interview for the Wall Street Journal – excerpt:
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before. I think America as a whole in 1973 and 1974 … missed the opportunity to deal with the energy crisis that was before us. For a long time our entire energy policy came down to cheap oil. This is an opportunity – what used to be long term problems, be they in the healthcare area, energy area, education area, fiscal area, tax area, regulatory reform area, things we had postponed or too long that were long term are now immediate and must be dealt with. And this crisis provides the opportunity for us … to do things that we could not do before. The good news is … the problems are big enough that they lend themselves to ideas from both parties for the solution.