Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There's something about Krugman...

Krugman is like catnip to some people, and I simply don't understand why. How could you get so worked up about an academic economist, particularly one like Krugman who is opinionated but isn't especially radical? I can't think of a single Nobel laureate in economics that I would criticize in the way that people criticize Krugman, and very, very few economists - I just don't get it.

I'll start with a man that has an entire blog dedicated to willful misreadings of Paul Krugman - Wayne William Anderson. Every time I read this guy, I feel sorry for his students at Frostburg State University. Their really getting a bum deal. Here, Anderson actually thinks we live in a fixed-pie world: that for Krugman to be richer, others have to be poorer. Anderson is actually convinced that Krugman thinks this. Another example from a normally much more reasonable blog is Gene Callahan at ThinkMarkets. Here, Callahan reaches back four years to find a Krugman column to disagree with, but all he can manage is to take Krugman's fairly basic point that increasing returns implies a "natural tendency" (Krugman's words) toward greater firm size and twists that into Krugman arguing that the division of labor requires monopolization. In the article Callahan is linking to, Krugman is actually pleading that economists read Adam Smith and take him more seriously and bring the division of labor and increasing returns back into economics (which shouldn't be surprising - that's what he got his Nobel for, after all). But you wouldn't know that reading Callahan's post - reading the post you'd think he was criticizing Smith!

And a crowning example is one I think almost all readers of this blog have heard at one point or another before: that Krugman supports war to end depressions. Krugman himself - who I'm sure never even reads through some of the critical blogs I read through - is shocked anyone even took the point that way, and spends two posts outlining why that's wrong, and why it's wrong to say that we prospered after WWII because everybody else's economy was in shambles. I've regularly argued on here that some of Bastiat's loudest supporters have no idea what Bastiat actually said - Krugman provides a nice illustration here, describing a real application of Bastiat, rather than the mangled, ham-fisted attempts to apply it to fiscal stimulus.

I guess what inspired this was not just Wayne William Anderson (who is hopeless), but seeing the Krugmania pop up in more respectable places and to an extent that motivated Krugman to address some points on his blog.

Why? What is your deal people? The only people I complain about as much people complain about Krugman are the hosts at Cafe Hayek. But I'm pretty clear that I complain about them because they're libertarians and because they make poor arguments against Keynesianism - not because I invent things not to like about them (like that they think we live in a zero-sum world or that they don't like Adam Smith or that they want war).

This Krugman thing is a gigantic mystery to me. I get why you don't agree with him - that's perfectly fine. Why do you harbor such resentment towards him and willfully misread him? Maybe it seems normal to you, but it comes across as pathological to everyone else.


  1. bailouts has the natural tendency towards greater firm size. Has Krugman ever admitted as much?

    Krugman is like catnip to some people, and I simply don't understand why.

    That's a reflection on your biases than anything else.

    I found this from William Greider's wikipedia page -

    In his latest, Come Home, America (2009), Greider claims that Krugman has changed his views over the last decade to move closer to Greider's.

    I'm sure Greider is right. Krugman has gone from an economist to an extreme left wing ideologue. The reason why you can't see to fathom this says more about your biases.

  2. sandre - he has a long, long record of what he thinks on the bailouts. I encourage you to look into it.

    I've always said he's a partisan guy. What I dispute is that it has substantially come at the expense of good economics, or that he's earned the mountain of criticism that people with nothing better to do heap on him. He is a fine economist. He's always had his political views, and since getting a NY Times column they've had an outlet. So? So he has an opinion - who cares? Are people who do positive science not allowed to have normative positions on what that positive science implies?

  3. You might as well as ask why Ann Coulter is a magnet for controversy.

  4. Xenophon - are they comparable? It seems to me that Coulter invites it more, but I could be biased.

    Could you furnish a Krugman statement that invites controversy the way that Coulter's "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much" comment about 9-11 widows did.

    That's just one, single, recent example.

    What has Krugman said...? So once he said something about "traitor to the Earth" right? He said something to the effect that Hayek thought a long period of unemployment was necessary (Hayek himself used the word "slow" to describe the readjustment process, if I'm not mistaken). Is there anything else? Please Xenophon - give me a break.

    If you want to draw Ann Coulter analogies on the left, mention Michael Moore (who, let the record show, I've never raised a finger to defend on here).

  5. That was probably phrased too weakly... this is better:

    "If you insist on making comparisons like that then you should furnish a statement from Krugman to illustrate your point".

  6. My point is that why person is controversial or is of interest is ultimately a mystery.

    Why is Milton Friedman controversial for the left, instead of, Coase?


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