Every week on the popular Fox show "House" a patient is brought in with a series of symptoms that make no sense to normal doctors. The misanthropic Dr. House and his team try to diagnose and treat the patient, but they are invariably wrong at the start, causing the patient to get even worse. The team of docs each offers unique cures. Meanwhile, the patient is lying about where he's been, what he does, and who he does it with. The situation deteriorates, the patient wretches, convulses, even sweats blood. By 45 minutes into the hour show, the patient is near death.
Does this sound familiar at all? It sounds exactly like what is happening in our economy today. The sick patient comes in beyond normal help, with unusual symptoms like over-leveraging, sub-prime mortaging, deflation, recession, and a manic-depressive stock market. Dr. Bernanke and his team, who know that not treating the patient at all will cause severe pain, have no textbook treatment for this new disease, so they decide to treat everything. Unique cures are offered by all....buy the bad assets, save the mortgages, inject capital, leaches....but the patient continues to get worse, it convulses and has seizures. Is it now somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45 (that's mountain time....check your local listings) in our episode of "Economy House"?
The good news is that House, or a member of his team, usually has an epiphany while doing something unrelated to the patient's treatment. The patient is then saved, and lives happily ever after. Unfortunately, as one of my students pointed out this morning when I first used this analogy, some of the patients on House don't make it.
By the way, if you haven't watched "House", I do recommend it, if only for the outstanding performance of Hugh Laurie as House, perhaps the most unlikeable main character ever on an American TV show. Where did he learn to be such an awful person? Perhaps by appearing in the classic Britcom "Blackadder", where Rowan Atkinson hilariously portrays the evil title character. See Below: