What Decline and Fall?

Roger Cohen’s column in today’s New York Times is titled “Decline and Fall.” Channeling Gibbon, he compares America in 2011 to Rome in 475 A.D., says “the West is shot,” commits the broken window fallacy, and generally paints a picture of doom and gloom.

Classical references aside, Cohen seems to be innocent of historical knowledge. The graph below shows real GDP since 1929 (source). The wee little dip at the end is the cause of Cohen’s histrionics.

Yes, economic growth is weak. Far, far too many people are out of work. And it will probably be a few years before boom times return. But context, please.