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Taking Krugman to the Woodshed

My friend Brink Lindsey is usually pretty measured in his writing.  So it was entertaining to see him take Paul Krugman out to the woodshed:

How can someone as intelligent and informed as Krugman concoct an interpretation of the post-World War II era that does such violence to the facts? How can someone so familiar with the intricate complexities of social processes convince himself that history is a simple matter of good guys versus bad guys? Because, for whatever reason, he has swapped disinterested analysis and scholarship for ideological partisanship. Here, in a revealing choice of phrase, he paraphrases Barry Goldwater’s notorious line: “Partisanship in the defense of liberty is no vice.”

To be a partisan is, by definition, to see the world partially rather than objectively: to identify wholeheartedly with the perspectives of one particular group and, at the extreme, to discount all rival perspectives as symptoms of intellectual or moral corruption. And the perspective Krugman has chosen to identify with is the philosophically incoherent, historically contingent grab bag of intellectual, interest group, and regional perspectives known as postwar American liberalism.

Of course, over the period that Krugman is addressing, the contents of that grab bag have changed fairly dramatically: from internationalist hawkishness in World War II and the early Cold War to a profound discomfort with American power in the ’70s and ’80s to a jumble of rival views today; from cynical acquiescence in Jim Crow to heroic embrace of the civil rights movement to the excesses of identity group politics to a more centrist line today; from sympathy for working-class economic hardship to hostility to working-class culture and back again. Yet with a naive zeal that leaves even Cuomo visibly nonplussed at several points in the interview, Krugman embraces the shifting contents of this grab bag as the one true path of virtue.

Posted on November 4, 2007 at 07:18 PM | Permalink


The few times I read Krugman I never got the impression that he was particularly well-informed or anything less than a hardcore partisan. He's a fine writer, and he states his views clearly, but that's about it.

Posted by: Greg | Nov 4, 2007 11:38:15 PM

The economically staggering thing about Krugman is that the economic history of the past half-century points markedly in the exact opposite direction of his “arguments” (which are anything but strong), leading one to believe he is either 1) willfully ignorant, 2) stupid, or 3) a combination of both.

His writings are not consistent lines of thinking displayed by an organized brain.

Which may help to explain why he got fired from his Council of Economic Advisors job.

Posted by: Mesa Econoguy | Nov 5, 2007 6:55:12 PM

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