Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The strange case of Paul Krugman.  Like many other educated people in Gotham City, I usually start the morning by perusing the New York Times (I still take the print edition).  More often than not, I disagree with the editorial position of the Times, and with many of the columnists.  I still monitor them because they are a fairly reliable guide to what the punditocracy is thinking.  With Paul Krugman, however, I usually only read the first sentence: from that I can readily predict what the rest of the column will say.  Mr. Krugman wears the hat of an economist, and he generally pounds away at two themes: spend, spend, spend because deficits don’t matter; and government is always good, the bigger the better.  More can be said, and has been, but that is the gist. Since I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative, I find Krugman’s crusade unpersuasive.

In fact, Krugman is a polarizing figure.  For his followers, he is an infallible oracle, always to be admired in all of his stands.  Some of my Internet friends keep sending me his columns because they share this view.  To me, a Krugman skeptic, the whole thing approaches the status of a cult.  The rest of us, a majority of the thinking public I believe, are simply unimpressed by Krugman’s dogmas.  Some of us simply ignore him; others are moved to expressions of ire.  At all events, admiration for this pundit is by no means universal.  In fact it is essentially limited to the fairly narrow circle of those who are already converted.

There is a larger context.  Surveys have shown that those who identify as liberals amount to about twenty percent of the population.  Over the last thirty years, this liberal contingent has been slowly shrinking.  This situation gives me no joy at all, because I don’t want to live in a society in which the only choices are conservative and ultraconservative.

As far as I can see, no one has yet figured out how to stem this erosion of liberal strength.  Please don’t tell me that Obama is the answer, because he has deserted many core liberal principles.  If he gets four more years, he will doubtless continue his progress towards the center and the right, as seen in his attacks on civil liberties, the continued militarization of foreign policy, and repeated caving in the face of Republican intransigence.

Whatever is needed, Krugman is not the solution.  With his preening arrogance and cocksure sense that he has all the answers, when he plainly does not, he is a net liability to the liberal cause.  Those folks need to do better.  And I indeed I know they can.  But waving Krugman’s flawed columns enthusiastically is not the way to go.

(May 15):  See now:


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