Commenting on Paul Krugman


By Joe Campbell
February 10th, 2009

Daniel Drezner over at Foreign Policy on Paul Krugman:

 

I’m 50% convinced that Paul Krugman’s op-ed today is correct, and the moderates wound up damaging the stimulus more than they improved it. 

The thing is, I’m also 50% convinced that Krugman is to Keynesians as Richard Perle is to neoconservatives.  When an embittered ideologue derides his political leader for demonstrating a willingness to compromise and “negotiating with yourself,” well, one does get the sense of deja vu.

 

Will Wilkinson on Krugman:

Perhaps more than any economist of his caliber, Krugman understands that policy is largely determined by the outcome of the public opinion shoutfest. Yet this recognition seems to have no effect on Krugman’s ideas. Rather than bring inside his models disagreement over economic theory and the lack of political incentive to faithfully apply them, which would lead him to radically revise his prescriptions, Krugman leaves his textbook theory untouched and simply tries to win the shoutfestKrugman’s often unbearable stridency seems to reflect an attempt to overcome the problems of democratic disagreement and incentive compatibility through sheer force of will–as if the deep reality of politics is no match for the rhetorical gifts and gold-plated reputation of Paul Freaking Krugman.

This is certainly my sense of Krugman as well. He lets his partisanship overcome his scholarship – but fails to account for partisanship in his scholarship.

Like Glenn Greenwald, he is a voice I hope those in power listen to – so long as they do not follow his advice too closely.

As I wrote during the earlier days of the 2008 campaign as Krugman railed biweekly against Obama:

I fear Paul Krugman is becoming the left-wing’s William Kristol in his single-minded partisan fervor, indifferent to political realities on the ground but true to the vision that shaped him years ago.  He remains interesting – much as Kristol has – but he seems to be somewhat disconnected from reality.

I drew a distinction then between Krugman’s approach to politics and Obama’s:

Paul Krugman illustrates as well as anyone the value of partisanship. For a political minority, partisanship is the key to survival, and the only means of blocking change. Partisanship is, in essence, a defense. The problem with the Democrats from 1994 to 2005, and even with some Democrats today, is that they were trying to be non-partisan in an environment that demands steadfast opposition – that demands partisanship…[But if] partisanship is the best strategy for a minority party, because, by it’s nature it is biased and divides the population; it is not the best strategy for a majority party…

Partisanship can only take us so far. In 2008, we need Barack Obama.

It is not surprising the Krugman now seeks to push Obama to abandon the politics that worked so well for Obama during his campaign – defeating the partisan fervor whipped up by Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, and then John McCain. Because – for Krugman, radicalized by the Bush years – partisanship is the only approach to politics he knows.