Monday, February 27, 2012

Krugman's got a book coming out!

He's been widely applauded for making the arguments for free trade digestible for the public. For some reason, when he turns to macroeconomics the applause trails off and whispers of "partisan hack" start popping up.

No matter, Krugman's new book on ending depressions is one I await eagerly. He is the indispensable economic commentator in this depression, and more broadly I'd say the indispensable public intellectual.


  1. There is no mystery as to why he is called a “partisan hack”, and I’d rate that label as generous. “Shill pretending to be impartial who routinely presents incomplete data and plausible but preposterous conclusions based on that data to a lay audience without enough information to know they are being duped” is more accurate.

    How many times does he have to write things like what you talked about in “Krugman, Austerity, and Growth” – Sunday Feb 19 before you begin to doubt his integrity?

    I find this especially troubling: “He is the indispensable economic commentator in this depression, and more broadly I'd say the indispensable public intellectual.” You mean, when he is not implicitly lying about data?

    I’ll give you a hint on the book’s two central points, as it is the same for nearly everything he writes:
    It is the Republicans fault
    We need to spend at least another trillion dollars

    1. Perhaps Daniel thinks what Krugman himself thinks: that Krugman makes mistakes - - - ? Maybe a case can be made that perhaps Krugman checks the accuracy and completeness of his data and arguments more thoroughly when publishing a book than he does when putting out his daily thoughts on his blog. Or that mistakes pertaining to some details do not exclude the possibility that the overall approach Krugman provides is right and that he is simply good in communicating this approach. But then, I am not under the impression that you are really interested in any of this...

      That you somehow guess that the book will be consistent with what you paraphrase/parody as Krugman's thoughts is hardly a criticism. It's like "I’ll give you a hint on the book’s central point, as it is the same for nearly everything he writes: NGDP targeting" if Sumner published a book on a similar topic. Even if true, it's not a valid argument against that book if you're not already convinced that Krugman is a liar and/or wrong about everything, always.

      @ Daniel: As a first-time commenter let me thank you for this great blog! It's a daily source of information for me. Btw, is my English OK? - I'm Austrian, you know, one of the national ones...

    2. The English is just fine.

      It's getting practically impossible to pay Krugman a compliment without dealing with the people that have nothing nice to say. I'm going to try to ignore it on this post - but you make good points in responding to Charles.

      I wouldn't even go all that far in terms of "mistakes". He's a lot more trustworthy than most out there. He does have an odd whipping-boy association with Hoover, which Charles was referring to. But even on that post, where he made obvious mistakes in characterizing Hoover, I think the general point was more accurate than, say, the Horwitz post.

      Like I've said - Krugman is like catnip to a lot of people. It's a shame - he makes a tremendous contribution.

  2. The Austrians will never get over the terrible affront he made to us in '98. He is now our enemy.

  3. I wonder if he will cite his Fisher-Minsky-Koo paper in this new book. He said he was "gravitating" toward the debt-deflationary tradition.

  4. I hope Mattheus's comment was in jest...but many, including myself, throw around the partisan hack description because of Krugman's NYT columns. Though Pop Internationalism was great, I have never read "The Return of Depression Economics" (I think that's the name) or his textbooks so I can't comment on whether the NYT rhetoric carries over to his books. It's been a while since I read Conscience of a Liberal but I think some partisan hackery was in there.

    But the fact is that Krugman hardly ever launches a criticism against Obama or the Democrats (and no, "Obama did the right thing by passing the stimulus, but it wasn't big enough" or "Obama did the right thing passing the health care bill but it should have been a single payer bill" don't count) while he rips apart Republicans; some of which I agree with him on.

    I'm going to make a prediction though and say Krugman's new book will focus on the need for a more inflationary monetary policy, a massive public spending program, and, get this, compulsory civil service so "young Americans can learn the value of public service by revitalizing national parks, rebuilding public infrastructure, and emptying bed pans of our wonderful seniors in public hospitals."

    Anyone wanna take out a wager on this?

    1. Hardly ever launches a criticism against Obama or Democrats?? You're joking, right? He's notorious for his criticism of Obama's handling of the crisis.

      And come to think of it, before he was attacking Bush he was famous for attacking Clinton. This was the whole point of Pop Internationalism. He was persona non grata in the Clinton White House, as he is in the Obama White House today.

      Umm, sorry. I'm not sure you're approaching this with a straight head, James.

    2. So what exactly does count as "non-partisan", James? Criticizing both sides incessantly but in a way that agrees with your viewpoint?

    3. No, I am referring to his incessant criticizing of Republicans but the lack of critiquing Democrats. Admittedly, he was critical of the Clinton administration but that was before his time as a regular in the NYT.

      Perhaps a rephrasing is in order. Krugman may be critical to some degree of Obama but it is nowhere close to the same degree he uses with Republicans. Again, I agree with some things he calls Romney, Gingrich, etc. out for. But the fact is he was very hard on Bush for foreign policy but has yet to utter a peep about Obama's. This may be because he wants to see big spending now but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he isn't a fan of government spending on drone strikes that have like a 30% chance of killing civilians. (I saw that figure on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend, it may be a bit more or less)

      Show me a Krugman quote calling Obama a liar, not concerned with poor people, or a job destroyer like he does Romney. I am not trying to argue that there is something wrong with Krugman being a partisan, I am just saying that it should be recognized that he has a bias that is incredibly evident in his writings; hence the labeling of a "political hack."

      And every time I see what might be construed as a criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the crisis is almost immediately followed by an apologetic tone and a blaming of the Republicans for holding things up in Congress.

      I also read somewhere (I think the New Yorker magazine profile on him) that Krugman has a picture of F.D.R. in his office. Just saying...

    4. James I'm having trouble taking you seriously.

      Do you call Bob Murphy a partisan hack because he's less critical of Ron Paul than Obama?

      You either don't know what you're talking about or you're motivated by a distaste for Krugman. The man is a lot of things, but he's not a partisan hack.

    5. "The man is a lot of things, but he's not a partisan hack."

      And you are having a hard time taking me seriously?

      Again, I have no problem with Krugman being a partisan hack as long as it is recognized. If Ron Paul were to change on a dime and declare that we should bomb Iran immediately, I am sure Murphy would criticize him.

      Was Krugman not critical of the Bush administration for its foreign policy or civil liberty abuses? I seem to remember he was yet I fail to hear a peep from him on Obama's continuation of many of the same policies and accelerating them in some instances.

      Any fair minded observer would agree that Krugman has a clear and distinct political bias that is evident in his writing.

    6. Or how about a better example. Krugman is often critical of Republican's close ties to Wall Street elite yet last time I checked, Obama has had many former big bank guys in his staff or among his advisers. Still no peep again.

      All I am saying is that if you are going to criticize one side for what you see as unethical or nefarious behavior, you should do the same when the other side does it as well; less risk being called an outright partisan. I seem to remember Krugman being critical of the Medicare part D expansion (in the Great Unraveling I believe) as it helped out Big Pharma but never said a word on how Obamacare "bailed out the insurance industry" as Howard Dean put it.

  5. I'll take a gentlemen's bet that he'll say nothing about "compulsory civil service." The other two he'll obviously talk about.

  6. I was maybe a little over half way through of Return of Depression Economics when I discovered Scott Sumner's blog a couple years back. I was like, "Forget this. I don't need to finish the book. Just bring on the NGDP!"

  7. I have nothing against PK per se. My simple point is that I will not accept as valid an argument that I know to be based on a partial data set, whether or not I agree with the conclusion. If you choose to allow PK to this data parsing latitude, then you must allow the same data parsing latitude to everyone, and you must accept all the possible conclusions as equally valid. Either cherry picking data is acceptable, or it’s not. It is that simple.

    1. Which cherry picking? The Hoover stuff or the austerity scatter plot? I don't allow him that latitude! I try to call him out on it every time! I just don't think it's common enough that it pushes him into "partisan hack" territory.

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