This is one excellent description of how Paul Krugman argues. It also describes how many others avoid arguing the legitimate points and counterpoints of an issue.
It’s from Steven Landsburg’s blog at the The Big Questions:
Let me summarize my complaint in a paragraph: Krugman has some policies he’d like to see enacted. Some people oppose those policies for silly reasons and others oppose them for sensible reasons. Krugman habitually ridicules the silly reasons and pretends that he has therefore dispensed with the sensible reasons.
I would add to Landsburg’ paragraph that those who oppose Krugman’s policies for silly reasons are usually very few in number, while those who oppose for sensible reasons are much greater.
Because the reasons Krugman chooses to debate are silly, and few, if any, people truly believe those reasons, Krugman utilizes nothing more than a very common, but accepted, fallacy – the straw man.
An example that Landsburg provided in an earlier post refers to a column where Krugman debunks the position of a “deficit hawk”. Personally, I don’t know many pure “deficit hawks”, that is , I don’t know many (or know of many economists) who believe that the most important thing is controlling the deficit.
Do I think deficits are necessary? Not really. Do I think they represent in many cases the inability of politicians to make tough choices? Yes. But, do I think that’s the only thing that matters? Nope.
UPDATE: In this post, Landsburg claims that politicians do often claim that deficits are all that matters. Perhaps they do. Maybe I don’t hear them or I filter them out because I know they’re politicians and they’re saying something they think will be consumable by the people watching Lindsay Lohan coverage. Either way, if they do say that, I agree with Landsburg. That’s silly.