Speaking of Krugman…

In my previous post, I explored my first exposure to Milton Friedman, while comparing him with Krugman. I thought it would be fair to do the same for Paul Krugman.

Somewhere in the early 00’s, I read a Paul Krugman column for the first time. Like Friedman, in the 70s, I had no idea who he was. Instead of being impressed with his ability to have a productive discussion, I was appalled at his use of fallacies. Name calling (ad hominem) and straw men (misrepresenting/oversimplifying opposing positions) seemed to be his favorites.

Friedman struck me as someone who, if you had a question about something, you could ask him and he’d give you a good rundown of both sides of the issue and why he thought one way or the other.

Krugman struck me as someone who would twist a story to match his preconceived ideas and would do so uncivilly. I decided he wasn’t worth my time to read Krugman and I have been amazed at how much attention the twerp gets.

Liberals like him because they can use him in their own fallacies — especially the Appeal to Expert or Authority fallacy — with heavy emphasis on his Nobel prize. Disregard, however, that whatever idea of Krugman’s they are appealing to has nothing to do with what he won the Nobel prize for.

Economists seem to like to play an annoying Krugman game. How can I praise him and disagree with him at the same time? I’ve been amazed at how willing they are to overlook his uncivil behavior.

It took longer than I thought, but a couple of economists have publicly called out his uncivil behavior in their open letter to PK.

I don’t post much about Krugman here, because I find that he is not worth my time. Occasionally, I do give him another chance to see if I’m missing something, but he hasn’t changed my mind yet. I still find his arguments contorted to fit his vision and not the least bit compelling.

As just one example, here he responds to the open letter.

Krugman first claimed that these two economists didn’t do much to publicly distance themselves from politicians who may have misused their research. When they provided a record of the times they did exactly that, Krugman retreats to “if the authors ever made an effort to correct this misconception…it was done very quietly.” Rather than admitting he overplayed that point, he gives us conditional, non-admission. That’s Childhood Sibling Fighting 101.

This whole point, however, is a red herring.

I also found this to not be compelling:

It’s the difference between arguing that failure to impose an austerity program amounting to a few percent of GDP might reduce GDP a decade from now by a fraction of a percent at most — which is what the actual correlation suggests — to suggesting that it will reduce future GDP by 10 percent, which is what the threshold claim suggests.


While I have issues with several things in this paragraph (like the use of the word austerity,  the characterization of ‘failure to impose’ it and the underlying notion that correlations matter), a couple others stand out.

First, I thought the corrected correlation showed the difference could be 8%, no? The Herndon correction showed that countries at the 90% of GDP debt threshold still underperformed countries with less debt by 0.8%. Compounding for 10 years, isn’t that 8%?

Even at that, that’s not the key reason I don’t find Krugman’s statement compelling. Even if my 8% figure is incorrect and Krugman’s ‘fraction of a percent at most’ is, the data still shows that ‘austerity’ programs, at worst, DO NOT HURT, and may help.

So, what is the argument against austerity?


5 thoughts on “Speaking of Krugman…

  1. However smart and accomplished he may be, Paul Krugman has always seemed to struggle with a certain social ineptitude that leads him to alienate as many people as he attracts. Fortunately, we can still learn from him – the lesson being that haughtiness is unhelpful in persuading others to our point of view.

  2. Krugman AN (after Nobel) often makes statements contradictory to Krugman BN (before Nobel). I think you have discovered the Krugman fallacy, which is an appeal to authority run amok. Nobel in hand (or at least in mind), Krugman assumes that he knows more than anybody about anything and that his Nobel prize makes anything he says true. In his mind, what he says “must” be true, so it’s easier to attack the simpletons that lack his profound wisdom rather than debate based upon the merits of analysis and reason. At the bottom of it all, Krugman is a very needy and insecure little man whose 5 minutes of fame came and went with the Nobel prize. In a pitiful attempt to stay in the spotlight, he uses the “authority” of his Nobel prize to curry favor with left wing celebrities so that he can rub elbows with them and feel like his fame has not faded.

    • I believe PK-ites think of the Nobel as a something akin to anointing a Jedi Master, in that winning the Nobel makes you an expert in all things, not just the specific thing that you won it for.

      I know a lot of folks like Krugman. They’ve been told from an early age how smart they are, which they mistake for having the ability to be right about everything. I’ve been stunned at how they will distort the facts to protect their own ego.

  3. Hi Seth – I didn’t mean for my comment to appear as anonymous. That said, I agree with you. I believe Krugman got his Nobel for his work on foreign trade, yet he’s deemed himself an expert on everything from global warming to abortion. Guess which camp he’s in on these issues! I’m a physician by training and graduated with honors from med school………..but that doesn’t qualify me to issue unsupported proclamations about planting corn in Iowa or how to build a better battery. I might have great ideas on these subjects, but I have to support my ideas with facts and reasoned arguments – a step that Krugman feels he can skip.


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