All this talk about “green shoots” is out of control. It’s become the go-to oh-aren’t-I-clever analogy for signs of economic recovery.Well, two things I suppose ought to be said about it. The first is that there is no "seems to imply." It's saying it flat out. If you have an economy that runs on confidence instead of money and math, then all reality is transformed by clever phrases, animal spirits, and happy thoughts. The very phrase "green shoots" is designed to paint a specific mental and emotional picture. It's not condescending, it's science. Just ask an economist.
It’s obnoxious. It’s factually inaccurate. And it must be stopped! ...
“I am sick of it!” Peter Cohan, founder of management-consulting and venture-capital firm Peter S. Cohan & Associates, said of the term. “[I]t’s condescending because it oversimplifies what is really happening and it seems to imply that just by using a clever phrase, the reality will somehow be transformed.”
But secondly, the whole "are there green shoots?" debate is silly. Even in the worst of times, there is always good news, something you can find hope in. In the best of times, there is always bad news, necessary because it performs a task as valuable as the Praetorian guard: not to keep us safe but to remind us that we are mortal. There was never a time in which nothing bad could be said, there was never a time in which someone was not making a ton of money or having a good time or raising happy children.
The danger, of course, arises from treating green shoots like green cars, looking for only that data that reinforces your preconceptions and points to wished-for conclusions. Are there green shoots? Yes. Do they mean anything? Maybe. We'll know eventually.
* In true Bernanke fashion, while he popularized the term in its current iteration, he did not originate it. It was actually invented back in the early 90s by a British cabinet member whose name fortunately escapes me at the moment. He was sentenced to the House of Lords in 1998 anyway.