Friday, October 12, 2012

About that Henderson post...

One of the big examples that makes me skeptical of statements like Friedman's that Henderson quotes is the case of Paul Krugman.

Friedman wrote of New Yorker intellectuals: "There was an unbelievable degree of intellectual homogeneity, of acceptance of a standard set of views complete with cliche answers to every objection, of smug self-satisfaction at belonging to an in-group."

You hear the same sort of attacks on Paul Krugman, which are complete hogwash from everything I've seen out of Krugman. This recent post from Krugman highlights a lot of what I think is so right about the guy, and why some people so badly misdiagnose his popularity. It doesn't feel like hogwash to the people making the attacks. These people are very sincere and actually think they're doing good by raising this stuff. And they're reasonable people in their own right (at least many of them are). I like a lot of them. They're just coming from a completely different perspective.

What drives the point home for me is that Krugman makes the exact same sort of attacks on others. And I usually think he's wrong there too (not always wrong on the substance of whatever question he's discussing - I often agree with him on that - but often wrong on his attacks on the due diligence or honesty of the people he's arguing against).

Anyway - the point is a lot of this is your own perspective, bad inferences, theater, emotions, etc. Very little content to it in most cases, I'm forced to conclude.

And the ironic thing is that a lot of you will be completely unmoved by this post because you're SURE that you are just as right about Krugman as Friedman was about New York intellectuals and when that thing gets said about someone on your side or your side in the aggregate it's just wrong.

Oh well.


  1. A lot of the attacks on Paul Krugman that I read are really unfair. The guy is a brilliant economist and has an understanding of a lot of issues that most people (myself included) could only dream of. On the other hand, he does brag about how he doesn't read conservatives and his writing on politics in the NYT often seems infected with a kind of partisan blindness.

    BTW, I imagine that if you were to drop Paul Krugman into 1964 Columbia some of his views would shock and amaze many of the faculty there just as they were shocked and amazed by Friedman.

  2. Krugman is frequently too kind to the people he is challenging.

    Every thinking person should be responding to the Romney/Ryan tax reform "plan" with raucous laughter and shouts of "liar". Tax reform is the center piece of Romney's campaign and the whole thing is smoke and mirrors. The six hundred economists who have endorsed the view that the non-existent plan will work should all be ashamed of themselves and be the object of general ridicule.

    1. Absalon,

      The center piece of Obama's 2008 campaign was a health care plan without an individual mandate.

    2. Blackadder,

      Sure, politicians come in with high hopes and goals and then they have to compromise with other forces.

      What makes the Romney case different is that he claimed to have a plan that included a 20% cut to be balanced by base broadening but he never identified how the base broadening would be accomplished. He either never actually had a plan or he had a plan that was so politically toxic that he could not disclose it.

      What is missing from the Romney plan is simply a list of ten or so deductions he would eliminate - the whole missing piece could be described on a single page. The studies tend to support the view that Romney's stated criteria are mathematically impossible so the conclusion seems to be that Romney is lying when he says he has a plan that is deficit neutral.

      The Romney/Ryan platform is long on wishful thinking and short on specifics. The one area where there should be a clear and definite answer about how he intends to lead the country is the alleged tax reform plan. This is the core of his plan and platform - if there is a plan, it should be disclosed. If he has no plan, he should admit it.

  3. Absalon,

    Here's the problem. If you ask the average economist whether you could enact Obama's proposed health insurance reforms (e.g. guaranteed issue and community rating) without a mandate, they would say "Are you crazy? That would cause an adverse selection death spiral!" And indeed, when the mandate ended up being challenged, the Administration took the position that you couldn't have the insurance reforms without the mandate, because it would cause an adverse selection death spiral. Yet during the campaign this is precisely what Obama proposed.

    As for the Romney tax plan, given that the specifics of any tax plan need to be worked out with Congress, I don't see why a lack of specifics in the Romney plan is such a problem.


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