Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Krugman's Double Standard

Last week when Paul Krugman debated Joe Scarborough, the economist accused Scarborough of "ad hominem" attacks when confronted with his own past statements. What bothers me most about Krugman's charge is that he is often guilty of name-calling and hyperbole. Krugman's disdain for his opponents is cheered by like-minded progressives, but isn't this no better than the name calling on talk radio or on the Web?

http://www.politicalruminations.com/2012/10/a-collection-of-15-quotes-about-paul-ryan-and-the-ryan-plan-by-economist-paul-krugman.html

The most cited line from Krugman about Ryan is actually borrowed:
As usual, Ryan makes me think of Ezra Klein's old line about Dick Armey: he's a stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like.
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/18/delusions-of-mobility/
I wish we could acknowledge that our "opponents" in politics, economics, philosophy, or any other discipline are not evil. We disagree, but that doesn't make someone stupid or willfully ignorant.

Whenever someone quotes "Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman" I am compelled to mention that a long list of other Nobel winners exist. Some of them have been fantastic failures in actual business, as the tale of Long Term Capital Management illustrates [link http://wiki.fool.com/Long_Term_Capital_Management]. Others are noted members of the Austrian or Chicago Schools of Economics — opposed to Krugman's neo-Keynesian theories. In other words, even the Nobel committee in economics doesn't believe one set of economic theories is right and all others wrong.

But, to read Krugman, you would think all other views are stupid or evil — not merely wrong.

How can that approach be anything but antagonistic? It is not persuasive. If anything, it alienates opposing points of view, making genuine dialogue more difficult.

Paul Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from Miami University of Ohio. Is the Princeton economist with the bachelor's degree from Yale and the doctorate from M.I.T. playing the role of elitist? (Of course, as I have written elsewhere — where you go to school does matter to people.)

Calling people dumb or stupid, any group, is not a valid argument.

I do not deny that some groups are less informed than others on some issues. And sometimes, how you decide "ignorance" is itself reflective of biases and assumptions. While self-identified Republicans are less likely to believe in "human-caused global warming," self-identified Democrats are more likely to believe in "ghosts and spirits" — choose which you believe is ignorant.

The field of economics is not climate science or parapsychology. It is admittedly an art, with statistic models that are imprecise at best. There are no perfect answers, only some better than others.

Paul Samuelson, one of Krugman's mentors, suggested that the U.S. would fall into long, lasting recession after World War II and the reduction in federal spending. That did not happen. Such failures of premonition are not evidence of stupidity, ignorance, or anything else. They are simply proof of the limits of economics.

When Krugman criticizes Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, or other politicians, he raises the specter of Ayn Rand. That's a simplistic argument, because it is easy to dislike Ayn Rand. I certainly dislike her personal history and only like one of her books (The Fountainhead). Sorry, but using Rand as shorthand for greed is itself a shallow argument that misses the nuance of Rand.

Admittedly, I have stated that Krugman omits information, changes positions, and argues more from political bias than economic models. Still, I don't believe he is "evil" — but I do believe he is convinced of his cause, no matter what.

Maybe if we could at least admit we're all biased that would start a dialogue. Nah, that is not going to happen. Silly me.

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