Thursday, October 21, 2010
Posted by dkuehn at 3:21 PM
So Bob Murphy has thrown down the gauntlet. He's challenging Krugman to a debate, at the Mises Institute, with Ezra Klein as the moderator, on Austrian Business Cycle Theory and Keynesian theory.
You'd think I'd be thrilled, right? I've got a big interest in both. I drone on about a synthesis or at least a reconciliation at the same time that I reserve some pretty serious criticisms for a lot of the Austrian school. I have no shame in saying that Krugman is one of the best living economists. Should I be promoting this?
Honestly, I can't muster much enthusiasm at all for this.
First, the basics:
1. Paul Krugman, sharp as he is, has demonstrated that he only knows superficially what ABCT entails - for the most part, he's ignorant of it.
2. Bob Murphy, despite his substantial Austrian credentials, has shown that he also only understands Keynesianism very superficially. To a large degree, he's fairly ignorant of the Keynesian argument.
Why would I be interested in seeing these two debate at all?
In this challenge, Murphy notes that Krugman will eventually feel pressured into debating if they keep the requests up. Really? At the Mises Institute of all places? He would feel compelled to debate there? They savage him every other day on there. He's been called a liar and lacking a conscience, blatantly dishonest, and a political operative. Keynesians are said to want "perpetual war for perpetual prosperity" and are "essentially Marxian". Liberals are accused of hating private charity, being fascists. All of these came up with a quick search, and all of this is in the text of the Mises post itself. There's even worse vitriol in the comment section, and obviously if I invested time in more searching I could find more ("Krugman" turns up over 27,000 hits on the Mises blog, after all - almost ten time the number of hits you get on the New York Times website, where Krugman writes a column!). Why would anyone in their right mind want to speak at such a hostile, unprofessional venue? There are a few good guys at the Mises Institute, but aside from them it's mostly absurdities - and very nasty absurdities at that.
So they take this hostility, and they turn it into a crusade of sorts. Robert Murphy refers to "younger anti-Keynesians", as if the whole point is to be against Keynes rather than... say... to learn truth about the economy. Jeff Tucker similarly invests deep significance to this - calling it "the great debate of our time". Really? This is "the great debate of our time"? Mises Institute regular Gary North has something he calls "the Keynes Project", again devoted not to seeking truth but winning an epic battle between Keynesians and Austrians.
This attitude is bizarre. As I said in an earlier post, this whole Mises Institute gang has a clash-of-the-titans approach to economics. They don't see other economsits as colleagues. They see them as enemies. And that fosters a deeply unprofessional website environment where commenters come in and say far worse things.
Which leads me again to ask - even if I did think Krugman and Murphy were the best people to debate this issue, why would Krugman ever agree? I wouldn't. Ten or twenty years from now, when I'm a hot shot economist (and because I'm sure I'll still be engaging the Austrian school in some capacity), I don't think I'd ever accept a speaking invitation from the Mises Institute. NYU? GMU? St. Louis? Sure. Those Austrian-friendly schools would be fine. But not the Mises Institue.