When was the Golden Age of conservative intellectuals?

by on July 12, 2017 at 12:39 am in Economics, Uncategorized | Permalink

Paul Krugman says a mix of “never” and “certainly not now” (my paraphrases, not actual quotations from him).  Here is one bit:

On environment, a similar turn took place a bit later.  The use of markets and price incentives to fight pollution was, initially, a conservative idea condemned by some on the left.  But liberals eventually took it on board — while cap-and-trade became a dirty word on the right.  Crude slogans — government bad! — plus subservience to corporate interests trump analysis.

I believe this is pretty far from the reality, here are a few points:

1. Conservative intellectuals never have turned against the idea of a carbon tax, as evidenced by Greg Mankiw’s leadership of the Pigou Club.  Cap-and-trade is somewhat less popular, but that is probably the correct point of view, given the time consistency problems with governments that increase the supply of permits, as has happened in Europe.

2. Water economics is a big part of environmental economics.  “Raise the price” and “define property rights better” remain central ideas in that field, commanding a lot of attention.  David Zetland is one recent exemplar of these ideas.

3. The idea that there can be too much environmental regulation in many particular cases remains a central contribution, often associated with the Right.  Of course this view is compatible with much tougher restrictions on carbon or other forms of air pollution.

4. The idea of properly applying “value of life” analysis to regulation, and seeking greater consistency (let’s save lives in cheaper rather than more expensive ways), remains a significant and undervalued insight.

5. Some of the key work on valuing biodiversity has come from Chicago-related methods, though I do not know the political affiliations of the authors.

6. Matthew Kahn, one of the leading environmental economists today, I would consider broadly in the classical liberal tradition.  He recently published an important book on air pollution in China.

6. Jonathan H. Adler is a significant ongoing contributor to environmental law and economics.  Or try the work of Terry Anderson.

7. Applying property rights analysis to animal herds, animal ownership, and the tragedy of the commons remains a significant conservative idea.  You will note throughout I don’t like calling these “conservative” ideas, they are simply good ideas or bad ideas.  Still, in the broader sociological sense you hear these ideas from conservatives and libertarians fairly often.

8. There is plenty of recent work on the political economy of the administrative state, and whether it generates abuses of the rule of law or bad incentives.

9. I could go on, with perhaps Vernon Smith”s recent work on peak-load pricing for electric utilities being next in line.  Or pro-green, pro-nuclear analysis often comes from the Right.

10. Overall, “schools of thought” have been dwindling in economics, and so it might seem that the golden ages of various ideologies or schools of thought lie well behind us.  But if we focus on the ideas and their influence, rather than whether carriers of those ideas bear particular political labels, the influence of Chicago, UCLA, cost-benefit, and Montana/PERC ideas in environmental economics never has been stronger.  In that sense the golden age is right now.

Addendum: Here is a better Krugman piece on the history of thought, though I would note that capital movements were integrated into the price-specie-flow mechanism in the 18th century and fully by the time of Henry Thornton.

1 Right Wing House Music July 12, 2017 at 1:00 am


Is that senile old man still relevant? If so, I would like him to go back in time to debate his younger, more intelligent, and less partisan self.


2 Boonton July 12, 2017 at 6:22 am

Indeed, time has proven him totally irrelevant. Look how wrong his predictions have been. The massive inflation after the stimulus and Fed easing. The amazing success of Trump. Look how radically innovative the proposed Obamacare bills are. The massive surge of coal mining jobs since January of this year. In academia hundreds of economists have gotten jobs rewriting textbook chapters on trade…before none of those jobs would have been created in the past as we would have just had Chinese printers print revised textbooks.


3 Careless July 12, 2017 at 7:48 am

Indeed, Krugman is a veritable prophet

“If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”


4 The Other Jim July 12, 2017 at 8:37 am

This quote needs to follow him permanently, as if part of his name, all the way into his obituary and beyond.

And so does “Former Enron Advisor,” obviously.

Krugman is nothing more than a destructively partisan human being, and I feel bad for Tyler that his “job” apparently requires him to reference the man periodically.


5 TH July 12, 2017 at 10:16 am

Sure – in the biggest, real-life macro-economic test of our life-time, whether the ballooning monetary base of 2008 and following would lead to inflation and higher interest rates, Krugman took a clear position contrary to conventional wisdom, and he was completely vindicated.

6 Boonton July 12, 2017 at 10:55 am

“And so does “Former Enron Advisor,” obviously.”

Advisor? He gave Enron advice? What did he advise them to do? Or did he speak at an employee function. If 15 years ago Tyler spoke to MySpace does that discredit him? Why?

The irrationality of Krugman haters just reinforces his credibility.

7 msgkings July 12, 2017 at 1:24 pm

OJ, I don’t know how much destruction you do, you are just anonymous pixels, but for you to accuse another of partisanship is astoundingly hypocritical. That quote should follow you to your anonymous pixel grave.

8 Rich Berger July 12, 2017 at 8:56 am
9 Boonton July 12, 2017 at 10:47 am

Context for the “when markets will recover” quote:

Under any circumstances, putting an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people in charge of the nation with the world’s most important economy would be very bad news. What makes it especially bad right now, however, is the fundamentally fragile state much of the world is still in, eight years after the great financial crisis.

It’s true that we’ve been adding jobs at a pretty good pace and are quite close to full employment. But we’ve been doing O.K. only thanks to extremely low interest rates. There’s nothing wrong with that per se. But what if something bad happens and the economy needs a boost? The Fed and its counterparts abroad basically have very little room for further rate cuts, and therefore very little ability to respond to adverse events.

Now comes the mother of all adverse effects — and what it brings with it is a regime that will be ignorant of economic policy and hostile to any effort to make it work. Effective fiscal support for the Fed? Not a chance. In fact, you can bet that the Fed will lose its independence, and be bullied by cranks.

What can you fault Krugman here for? Probably taking Trump at his word and assuming with his ‘business mind’ and Republican control of the House and Senate he would actually be able to do the things he said he wanted to do.

Making predictions is always tricky but let’s be honest, I think even most Trump supporters are surprised that Trump can’t run his own office, doesn’t seem to even remember what he ran on, and seems to think picking fights with media celebrities is more important than actually accomplishing stuff either with legislation or Executive action.


10 Gabe Atthouse July 12, 2017 at 1:52 pm
11 Careless July 12, 2017 at 10:19 pm

What can you fault Krugman here for?

Being a panicky twit.

12 ladderff July 12, 2017 at 9:19 am

There Is No Inflation. Also chocolate rations are up this month! Doubleplusgood, eh, Winston?


13 Thiago Ribeiro July 12, 2017 at 11:08 am

The massive inflation rhe far-right predicted will begin anytime, soon, right? I think someone should write a book explaining that and I am not the only one. Inflation is for the right what minimun wage is for the left and women is for the videogame playing alt-right: the place where sanity goes to die. Many years ago, I watched a partmof a Letterman’s program on a Brazilian cable channel and there was a car with sound system following a bearded man in New York and telling him the Taliban had been overthrown and he could shave again. Likewise, I assure you Jimmy Carter is not in charge anymore.


14 Thanatos Savehn July 12, 2017 at 1:41 am

Buy some land and live on it. Cut paths through the woods on your tractor and get stung a dozen times by the hornets you disturb. Carry 2 two gallon tanks of lindane mix, again and again and again into those woods to keep pine beetles out of your trees. Find the biggest dogwood you’ve ever seen and cut all the brush around it and make a place to sit and marvel at nature’s beauty. Find a magnolia fighting for light and grown into a Seuss-like giant battling the loblolly and pack cement into the woods as a poultice for a wound inflicted by a falling tree. Rush out at 3AM to help fight a neighbor’s fire until well past dawn. Then you’ll know why the owners of land are the guardians of land – and not a$$ clown theorists like Krugman; who would have what you’ve saved from destruction taken away by the government and given to him for his idle and aimless leisure.


15 Ray Lopez July 12, 2017 at 2:50 am

Good advice, but it sounds like you, like the Native Americans before you, are shaping the environment as much as living within it.

Bonus trivia: ‘wild’ animals are shaped by man. Some claim that bears are more aggressive today than before since they’ve lost their fear of humans. Why is the polar bear fearless today? No Intuit to hunt it. Sounds counter-intuitive?


16 McMike July 12, 2017 at 8:15 am

Indeed. Where would the land be without bulldozers to free it?!


17 mulp July 12, 2017 at 1:50 am

“Well one of the important things to keep in mind is that if you have a carbon tax, you can turn around and cut other taxes in response,” Mankiw said. “For example, the payroll tax. So this is a tax shift, rather than a tax hike.”

Clearly, mankiw does not understand economics, supply and demand, substitution, zero sum, and even the entire point of the Laffer curve.

An effective carbon tax raises very little, if any, tax revenue.

Only if the carbon tax is actually a VAT that is set to maximize revenue by reducing burning of fossil carbon by the least possible can other taxes be reduced or eliminated.

I just finished watching the 5th and 6th hours of The Story of China on PBS, which has as it constant theme the two and one thousand year history of China, the multiple times of the greatest economy in the world based on the most advanced technology and greatest investment in the world.

So, given the US is less than a quarter of a millennium in existence, only half a millennium of the West in the Americas, energy must be considered in the context of the next thousand years.

No way will fossil fuels play an important role over the next millennium; it will only be a historical oddity.


18 msgkings July 12, 2017 at 2:12 am

This is actually a solid post from mulp of all people.


19 Careless July 12, 2017 at 7:52 am

You wrote that about a post that basically starts off with “An effective carbon tax raises very little, if any, tax revenue.”


20 msgkings July 12, 2017 at 1:26 pm

I was grading on a curve. Some of it is still pure uncut mulp.


21 Benny Lava July 12, 2017 at 2:23 am

Tyler just got butt slammed by Mulp? Not a good start to the day


22 Larry Siegel July 12, 2017 at 4:46 am

Greg Mankiw does understand economics. What mulp’s post overlooks is that the carbon tax is likely to be designed to be ineffective, that is, it will be too low to cut the use of carbon by very much. However, that means it will collect revenue that can be used to (1) offset other taxes, (2) reduce government debt, or (3) increase government spending.


23 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 4:53 am

To be fair mulp wrote “An effective carbon tax raises very little, if any, tax Revenue” – as in an effective carbon tax is one that probably WOULD reduce carbon usage. Otherwise what is the point of it?


24 Willie24 July 12, 2017 at 8:04 am

To shift more environmental cost to those who are producing it?

25 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 8:29 am

Depends on your perspective. The environmentalist Goal is certainly no simply cost shifting. I do not think environmentalists would be satisfied with simply maintaining similar Levels of greenhouse gas emissions as long as the producers are paying for it. From this perspective an effective carbon tax must be heavy enough to make using fossil fuels very expensive and hence significantly reduce their usage. This might be the Mankiw view however, that current or maybe slightly reduced levels of pollution are okay as long as the costs are properly allocated but this is not what environmentalists would consider to be “effective”.

26 Willie24 July 12, 2017 at 10:26 am

If the costs are properly allocated, emissions will certainly decrease. And revenue will be generated. It’s not either/or, and it’s not pointless.

27 Miguel Madeira July 12, 2017 at 5:16 am

“An effective carbon tax raises very little, if any, tax revenue.”



28 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ July 12, 2017 at 9:51 am

An “effective” tax is high enough to reduce consumption, and in future cycles, tax revenue.

A $0.10 a pack cigarette tax might be ongoing revenue. A $10 tax might be an end to smoking.

Obviously though details remain, consumption targets, glide path, etc.


29 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ July 12, 2017 at 9:52 am

(There are stories that some (China?) do not raise cigarette tax too high for this reason.)


30 David Wright July 12, 2017 at 5:50 am

“An effective carbon tax raises very little, if any, tax revenue.”

This is nonsense. The only way you arrive at this conclusion is to assume that “effective” means something like “rapidly reduces fossil fuel consumption by more than an order of magnitude”. Targeting such a reduction comes from ideological fear-mongering, not economics-informed climate science. The Stern report was much-lauded by the left and arrived at a social cost of carbon much higher than previous estimates such as Nordhaus’s. Stern’s social cost of carbon implies a fuel tax of the same order of magnitude as current state+federal fuel taxes. Those raise about $70B/year. $70B/year replaces about 10% of payroll tax revenues, so we’re definitely talking a out enough money to make a non-trivial payroll tax cut.

I often ask my leftist friends if they would accept the bargain of a high, Stern-level carbon tax but with the requirement that all of its revenues go toward decreasing taxes on the rich, with none at all going toward increased government spending or redistribution. So far they have all been very recitent. I don’t expect them to love such a bargain, but you would think that if they believed that literally “the survival of the planet” was as stake, they would nonetheless immediately accept.


31 McMike July 12, 2017 at 8:19 am

Perhaps your leftist friends are pausing to contemplate how the rich will use the windfall in income to undermine the greenhouse reductions


32 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 8:39 am

Yeah I agree, basically this trade-off would be extremely short sighted. Even if you do believe that globalwarming posses a catastrophic risk you must admit that it has something of a slow-boiling effect in that it doesn’t feel like an immediate threat, therefore “allieviating” or avoiding the worst impacts of global warming won’t produce some kind of obvious result a politican can easily point to as a triumph – you’re avoiding a potentially very bad path but most people aren’t going to notice any difference except gas is way more expensive and they have not been compensated for it (instead the rich have). So what would happen is that the Carbon tax would be extremely unpopular and be repealed – tax cuts for the rich don’t seem to get reversed easily therefore the end point would likely be no carbon tax but the rich keeping their gains. It would be wise for a leftist not to accept this deal. It’s a very bad deal.


33 Boonton July 12, 2017 at 6:39 am

I guess the idea is that an effective carbon tax supposedly raises little revenue because if no one used any carbon, there’d be no tax payments. Sort of like tobacco tax revenue falls as people stop smoking.

But tobacco is interesting as an analogy to a carbon tax. (https://taxfoundation.org/federal-tobacco-tax-revenues-are-declining/). While the tax revenue has been declining slightly since 2009 or so after a big tax increase, smoking since 2000 has fallen by about 35% (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/tables/trends/cig_smoking/index.htm).

The 80-20 rule probably applies here in the reverse. It would be relatively easy to cut carbon by 20%, very hard to quickly cut the remaining 80%. Remember carbon has 0 cost at the moment so aside from marketing gimmicks, there is no economic incentive to reduce carbon. When there is no economic incentive to reduce something, not only will it not be reduced but you probably have a lot more of it than you need. So it’s probable a modest carbon tax would immediately reduce low hanging carbon fruit but the tax itself would raise effective revenue because the remaining ‘80%’ of carbon cannot be so easily reduced quickly. Of course the carbon tax could be made totally revenue neutral by coupling it with a decrease in other taxes like payroll or income.


34 JC July 12, 2017 at 10:28 am

“No way will fossil fuels play an important role over the next millennium; it will only be a historical oddity.”

Much like the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs or the five other CO2 spikes that triggered extinction-level events.


35 Benny Lava July 12, 2017 at 2:19 am

Ah yes the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. Good to see Tyler cheer me up with some good old fashioned intellectual dishonesty so early in the morning.


36 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 2:27 am

Sorry Tyler this post does in fact reek of a “no true Scotsman” fallacy. These “conservative intellectuals” you list have basically zero influence on current practical policy ideas. So they publish their ideas in nice textbooks and academic journals and it all amounts to nothing in the practical world.


37 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 3:39 am

It’s not Tyler’s fault that Krugman is lazy and over generalizes. Cap and trade was always a fringe idea on the right- Krugman is trying to pretend otherwise in order to demonize the current right. It would be akin to me pretending that the democrats have abandoned their prior support for a border wall (since trump now supports it and corporate donors demand cheap labor) on the basis of the fact that a leftist like Mickey Kaus supported a border wall back in the day.

People interested in fruitful debate don’t pretend that their opponents are beholden to any policy proposal made by any one person on their side.


38 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 3:58 am

Uhhh buddy if you want to go down that road….. so what you’re saying is Krugman is being TOO charitable? Who would you say the real.m conservative intellectuals are? Moldbug?


39 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 4:03 am

Uh clearly you don’t understand the point of krugman article. It’s not more charitable at all it’s a deeply cynical ploy to make the current republicans to seem more ideological than their predecessors in order to discredit them. Whether or not conservatives support cap and trade isn’t what krugman is writing about-“But liberals eventually took it on board — while cap-and-trade became a dirty word on the right” is the crux of the article. That crux is entirely bogus.


40 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 4:09 am

Actually to be clear that isn’t what he’s saying at all – he’s not saying the current crop is more ideological than their predecessors he’s saying there never was a golden age of conservative intellectualism – all the crops were ideologes. Whether you agree or disagree whatever but that’s what he’s saying. He’s saying the there really aren’t any serious conservative intellectuals and you’re kind of backing up his point here….I mean who or what would you point to as an example of some kind of intellectually driven conservative policy position?

Cap-and-trade is not one, but is a carbon tax? Tyler Cowen in his Response above appears to think carbon tax is a conservative position….

41 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 4:24 am

Like half the country most conservatives don’t see global warming as an issue needing government intervention. Just like there are various things that conservatives think are major concerns that democrats scoff at- affordable family formation for instance.

A serious person would acknowledge that and understand that if you don’t think that an issue needs to be addressed you aren’t going to be barfing out a bunch of policy ideas.

A superannuated ideologue would pretend that a lack of interest in a particular issue denotes a lack of seriousness and a highly mood affiliative person would hold that argument close to their bosom. Which isn’t to say that you are highly mood affiliative just displaying the proclivities of such.

42 McMike July 12, 2017 at 8:22 am

Affordable family formation is a conservative idea scoffed at by liberals?

Please explain.

43 Thomas July 12, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Intellectualism as a system is an attempt to usurp the rights of others and dictate the minutiae of their lives. It naturally tends to prevalence among those whose ideology requires centralized control. What would conservative intellectualism look like except as liberty-minded or economic-minded tweaks to the aesthetically motivated policies of would-be authoritarians? The carbon tax, for instance, is a rational policy response to AGW, and is a compromise from the libertarian “lawsuit-justice approach”. As a policy, it responds to the aesthetic distaste that the left has for automobiles, factories, and capitalism in general. The intellectualism that Krugman praises is often window dressing for base desires for communism.


44 Sam the Sham July 12, 2017 at 9:53 am

I would like to point out a difference between conservative and Republican. Almost all Republicans who have had any degree of influence were not conservative, except in the sense that they are Progressive-lite. McConnell, Ryan, Boehner, Cruz- they are not willing to fight the notion that health care or living wages are Unalienable Human Rights Granted By Allah Herself. If they fight policy, it’s a quibble based on results-based data (we want Living Wages, but you get it via EITC, means-tested welfare, low grade UBI, etc, anything but 15$ per hr minimum wages).

I haven’t followed Rand Paul or Austin Peterson much, I assume they are actually conservative, but they have jack for influence, currently.


45 Andre July 12, 2017 at 2:43 am

Can you divorce the conservative intellectuals from the conservative political establishment and their base? Is conservatism not what the conservative party and the conservative voters endorse?

Krugman’s made the point before, and the article was another example, that the GOP can’t seem to accept when they’ve won. It’s bizarre to see a party’s policy positions ascend into the mainstream and then they immediately turn around and abandon them. It’s just continual opposition, they never believed what the intellectuals endorse, policy positions are just planks for that opposition.


46 Nick July 12, 2017 at 2:55 am

“Can you divorce the conservative intellectuals from the conservative political establishment and their base? Is conservatism not what the conservative party and the conservative voters endorse?”

I think this is a key point: if conservative *intellectuals* are no longer being listened to by conservative *politicians*, conservative *donors*, conservative *media*, or the conservative *voter base*, of what use are the intellectuals? They may as well not exist for all the difference they’re making. Maybe in another field it would matter less that it’s all theory and the actual efficacy is basically nothing, but in terms of *political* intellectuals, if you can’t convince people on your own side about your own ideas, it’s a very bad indicator for conservative intellectualism.


47 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 3:08 am

Conservative intellectuals are largely window dressing people like Tyler are here just to provide genteel respectability but they do not in any way drive conservative policy or governance in the real world.


48 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 3:43 am

I’m curious is the left beholden to any political idea that has even been proffered by one singular leftist? Because if that’s the case marriage is between a man and woman probally needs to creep back into the democratic platform.


49 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 4:10 am

But the way you’re arguing here is proving Krugman’s point…..


50 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 4:25 am

No it really isn’t. You don’t even understand his point you just really like that he beats his war drums super loud.


51 Just Another MR Commentor July 12, 2017 at 7:43 am

I love the old “posting is war” mentality. You realize he’s just an old man with a beard lounging around typing at his keyboard?

52 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 12:46 pm

you are pretty dense. The point isn’t that posting is war- the point is that you are extremely tribal. War Chief pound drum you dance funny dance.

53 Ray Lopez July 12, 2017 at 2:58 am

TC: “Applying property rights analysis to animal herds, animal ownership, and the tragedy of the commons remains a significant conservative idea.” but see: http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/the-victory-of-the-commons (Elinor Ostrom Nobelist research, no Tragedy of the Commons in practice; another analogy might be incentives for innovation, most inventors just invent for fun and for society’s trivial pat-on-the-back, not for lots of money)

Personally, I think economics is just historians being trendy. Pick a subject you know well (in my case patents, among other things; maybe finance is a more common subject you would know). See how the economist, a generalist, treats the subject, with broad and somewhat meaningless abstractions and priors. Mr. Economist, if you’re so smart…why aren’t you rich? (TC is in the top 10%; the one economist who got filthy rich, besides Mr. 1% Krugman, is Andrei Shleifer, almost a crime in how they got rich privatizing Russia)


54 Anon July 12, 2017 at 9:47 am

Trendy history sounds about right, and it may be becoming less trendy. Is the Golden Age of economics over? It seems like policymakers and the public are beginning to realize that the profession offers much less insight than it claims.


55 Jerry Brown July 12, 2017 at 3:08 am

Maybe you are right as far as ‘conservative intellectuals’ are concerned. But Krugman seems right about their impact on policy proposals from the political party generally called ‘conservative’ in the US.


56 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 3:31 am

If the left weren’t implacable things like cap and trade might happen. But why on earth would anyone right of center not look at an analogous issue like for instance gay marriage and correctly interpret that a cap and trade policy would immediately lead to calls for newer more draconian policies.

The left is now facing the just delightful consequences of its cynical and dangerous no enemies to the left mentality. Don’t police the wilder shores of your base and inevitably your opponents aren’t going compromise.

Rub a little Robitussin on it leftists it’s gonna get a lot worse for you before it gets better. Pendulum politics are a bitch.


57 Boonton July 12, 2017 at 6:30 am

How exactly is the left ‘implacable’? Can you please tell provide us examples of how placable the right is?

“But why on earth would anyone right of center not look at an analogous issue like for instance gay marriage and correctly interpret that a cap and trade policy would immediately lead to calls for newer more draconian policies. ”

Cap-n-trade was already done with acid rain and it was quite successful. If anyone’s been draconian on gay marriage it has been the right. Keep in mind one side here has actually argued that town clerks should be able to decide who to issue marriage licenses too based not on actual marriage law but on their personal religious beliefs. Let’s try to imagine what would happen if a vegan took a job as local health inspector and announced he would not pass any restaurant that wasn’t vegan regardless of how clean it was and the left declared that firing him for refusing to do his job was a violation of religious freedom.


58 MOFO July 12, 2017 at 9:28 am

“Keep in mind one side here has actually argued that town clerks should be able to decide who to issue marriage licenses too based not on actual marriage law but on their personal religious beliefs”

Thats some kind of conservative plank now? Or is it just the actions of a few? Does your ‘side’ take as its core belief that Yale students are irreparably harmed by an email suggesting they not freak out at people’s costume?


59 Benny Lava July 12, 2017 at 11:35 am

I would argue yes to both, sadly enough.


60 A Definite Beta Guy July 12, 2017 at 9:53 am

Cap-and-trade for SO2 has taken a back seat to AGW as a political issue. The problem with political footballs is that there is no political compromise possible, because it’s a zero-sum, tribal game: someone must win and someone must lose.

A better issue would be gun violence, which has dropped dramatically over the past several decades, yet the Left still insists it needs to seize every gun in the nation to feel safe. And yadda yadda “no liberals actually believe in this.” I live in Chicago and deal with actual liberals, practically ALL liberals believe that appropriate gun ownership is zero and want to work towards that goal (even if they will accept temporary compromises that allow SOME guns to exist).

Other issues: top MRTs. The US rate is already back to what it was in the Clinton years. This isn’t enough, the Left still wants more. Nothing will ever be enough because the Left simply hates rich people and capitalism.
Health care: ACA was supposed to be the fix, it’s still not enough. Dem proposals all rag on how the deductibles are too high, etc. Nothing will ever be enough because they want total control over who lives and who dies and don’t think it should be subject to market forces.

Overall environmental quality in the US has improved markedly over the last several decades yet I still hear constant whining from liberal friends about how everything has gone to hell and it’s all about to collapse.

Obviously Conservatives have their own axes to grind, but zero-sum tribal disputes aren’t resolvable.


61 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Gay rights, gun control, abortion, opposition to border control I can keep naming other examples of left wing implacability.

You can’t impose things like gay marriage on states via jackboot and then act like you don’t see implacability. In ten years we’ve gone from Texas v. Lawrence to forced baking of wedding cakes at the threat of imprisonment. Those kind of developments make the right correctly see the left as implacable.

Can you name anything remotely analogous that the right has demanded? No of course not.


62 Ray Lopez July 12, 2017 at 8:01 am

Sam Fulsome writes: “Pendulum politics are a bitch” – I think politics sounds better as a singular noun, so it would be “politics *is* a bitch”. Don’t worry Sam, I’m not reading any of your posts, except for grammatical mistakes like this. Your blathering is about as interesting as watching food fall out of a fat man’s mouth.


63 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 8:15 am

What is that supposed to be you cuck? A fat person joke?


64 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Ray every time you sulkily respond to my comments you just remind people about how I’ve humiliated you in the past.

Your “girlfriend” has a pimp you lost before the debate even started.


65 M July 12, 2017 at 3:35 am

>> Certainly, the supposed era in which only conservatives had all the interesting ideas while liberals rehashed tired dogma never happened in any field I know well.

The inverse case certainly doesn’t exist, so it’s a bit of a high bar!


66 John F July 12, 2017 at 3:38 am

I have great trouble reading Paul. The mood affiliation surrounding the letters “D” and “R” is so overwhelming. My brain does not have a macro tuning; beyond some accounting identities, no macro “truth” feels obvious to me. Yet he writes about macro with as much certainty as he does politics. He’s not persuasive to an ideologically non-aligned person, and he is basically inscrutable to a non-expert.

Paul is very good at blog-length morsel hagiographies and public condemnations, at least…


67 Epiphyte July 12, 2017 at 3:39 am

Not sure if David Pearce could be considered a conservative or libertarian economist… but his approach to the environment was exceptionally sound…

“The economic approach stresses the fact that any expenditure always has an opportunity cost, i.e. a benefit that is sacrificed because money is used in a particular way. For example, since biodiversity is threatened by many factors, but chiefly by changes in land use, measures of value denominated in monetary terms can be used to demonstrate the importance of biodiversity conservation relative to alternative uses of land. In this way, a better balance between ‘developmental’ needs and conservation can be illustrated. To date, that balance has tended to favour the conversion of land to industrial, residential and infrastructure use because biodiversity is not seen as having a significant market value. Economic approaches to valuation can help to identify that potential market value, whilst a further stage in the process of conservation is to ‘create markets’ where currently none exist.” – David Pearce, Dominic Moran, Dan Biller, Handbook of Biodiversity Valuation A Guide for Policy Makers

Unfortunately, Pearce was killed by cancer before he had a chance to “create markets where currently none exist”.


68 Sam Haysom July 12, 2017 at 3:49 am

For centuries the left wing in this country opposed gay marriage. Suddenly they assume power and kowtow to corporate donors and radical identity groups and reverse this century long opposition. Why can’t democrats just accept when their polices have won.

The same principle works for tough on crime (superpreadators was a term one noteworthy leftist used) polices. You had the wife of a former law and order hardliners running to undo some of the very polices she had supported during her husbands presidency. But yea some nerd at a think tank thought cap and trade was a good idea.


69 Procrustes July 12, 2017 at 5:08 am

Why does anybody even invest any time in working out what Krugman is saying. It is more than a decade now that his written output has bifurcated between the chaff of progressive cheerleading and the wheat of well grounded economics. He has so trashed his brand that the lesson is: it is just too much effort to sort the wheat from the chaff.


70 Thiago Ribeiro July 12, 2017 at 6:01 am

It is said to see America being slowly but surely destroyed by sectarian conflict like Syria and political factiousness like the Rome of the Year of the Six Emperors.


71 The Other Jim July 12, 2017 at 8:40 am

Yes. This country is completely indistinguishable from Syria. Spot on.


72 Thiago Ribeiro July 12, 2017 at 10:36 am

Syria was once easily distinguishable from today’s Syria. Not anymore. I am not saying Trump drives a chariot or speaks Arab, I am saying political polarization is killing America as once killed Rome and Syria. It is undeniable.


73 Evans_KY July 12, 2017 at 6:47 am

We are on the cusp of a revival for the conservative movement. For too long it has been a prisoner chained by the Republican Party. Buckley while brilliant made a deal with the Devil. I have never been prouder of intellectual conservatives than in this last year. Unpredictability in politics can be a very good thing.

Krugman can take his snide remarks and stuff it. The failures of the Republican and Democratic Party (no distinction intended) lie in their “subservience to corporate interests” and the subversion of their principles for profit.


74 rayward July 12, 2017 at 6:58 am

The Univ. of Chicago is the place where rigorous analysis is taught and applied. While the Univ of Chicago is considered “conservative”, that term has lost it’s original meaning: it has become the catchall for anything that is opposed to “liberal”. Yesterday Cowen explored the meaning of “conservative” in a political context, namely in the case of China. I pointed out that order and stability used to be hallmarks of the conservative, while today disruption (“breaking the furniture” to use Giuliani’s term when praising Trump) is considered by many as “conservative”; under this new formulation, the Framers would not be considered “conservative” since they were concerned most of all about order and stability. In economics, “conservative” for many (especially for politicians and celebrity economists who make their living as talking heads on television or working for partisan non-profits) is synonymous with anything that is anti-government. Of course, those same “conservatives” promote the kind of monopoly power provided by government (e.g., patents) that has given rise to excessive rents (in the economic sense) that has been a drag on growth; these “conservative” economists aren’t really conservative but rather advocates for the interests that pay their salaries. As for Krugman, I think this blog post better describes the dilemma in distinguishing “conservative” ideas: https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/07/10/formerly-true-theories-wonkish-and-self-indulgent/ In the post, Krugman points out that economists often develop their ideas by looking at the past, resulting in many ideas that were formerly good but not so good today (much less tomorrow). Or to quote Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind”. To me, in the economics context “conservative” still means a preference for markets rather than government solutions. Deference to markets is still a good idea, as long as markets reflect the world of Adam Smith. Rigorous analysis is essential to distinguish whether yesterday’s good idea is a good idea today (and tomorrow). The Univ. of Chicago continues to lead the pack in promoting that kind of analysis.


75 McMike July 12, 2017 at 8:40 am


Yes, conservatives have ridden the crap out of that unicorn.

Unprovable, shy and ellusive, easily spooked, it refuses to show its face, only appearing as a shadow through the trees and over the horizon.

I know, i know. It would magically reveal itself if government got out of the way.


76 McMike July 12, 2017 at 8:45 am

(Posted too soon)

Whatever the merits of conservative ideas, such as deference to markets, stated as you did with caveats and nuances.

The reality of modern conservative politics is to strip ideas of meaning and reduce them to slogans, tossed around as nihilistic word salad.


77 harpersnotes July 12, 2017 at 7:38 am

Chess. Point 10 – “schools of thought” have been dwindling in economics. I’m reminded of John Watson’s brilliant final chapters on the various schools of thought dwindling in chess toward the end of the 70 year period he covers in his 1999 book, Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy: Advances since Nimzowitsch. Since reading I sometimes respond to questions about what school of thinking I belong to (in politics or otherwise) with a phrasing inspired by the book, the supremacy of the specific, the primacy of the particular.


78 mb July 12, 2017 at 8:25 am

One of the more important environmental issues, is pollution by government. I believe you linked to a paper that showed when governments pollute, they are punished less severely. But it goes beyond that. A good example is road construction. Up until a decade or so ago, it was legal to dump asphalt anywhere, no state that I know of classified it as hazardous waste. That makes even less sense if you realize that at that point many governments had already started using low level hazardous waste in asphalt (i.e. contaminated gravel). It makes complete sense if you look at from cost perspective, and if you make the laws – well better to have sensible laws. Disposal of sludge from sewer treatment plants is another big issue, as are landfills, military bases, and military research. No corporation comes close to polluting as much as government.


79 McMike July 12, 2017 at 8:31 am

“No corporation comes close”



80 Blue Toque July 12, 2017 at 8:58 am
81 McMike July 12, 2017 at 11:50 am

That’s just one data point. Indeed, the Pentagon is a major employer, has a massive facility and vehicle footprint, and (yes) often receives a variety of waivers from scrutiny for its actions. So it has undeniably high impact.

The military is also (largely quietly) leading efforts at climate mitigation and response (because it’s own analysts are not conservative climate change deniers, but actual scientists who see the writing on the wall). This effort is, of course, hampered at many points, by… wait for it… conservatives.

Your claim though, is that the pentagon has far higher impact that corporate polluters. I call BS.

I’ll give you a few example I’d like to see you address: pesticides and fertilizers; electronics manufacture; plastic bag and bottle makers; mining waste; and the oil companies’ extraction, refinery, and end product.


82 McMike July 12, 2017 at 8:29 am

The golden idea of conservativism – for the policy makers, thought leaders, and pundits – has been to treat ideas like a teenage girl treats fashion.

It’s Tuesday, so we must be on state’s rights….


83 Anon7 July 12, 2017 at 2:46 pm

As distinguished from liberalism. It’s Wednesday, so in the good ole tradition of Southern Democrats states have a 10A right to resist the federal government with sanctuary city policies.


84 byomtov July 12, 2017 at 8:42 am

Jonathan H. Adler is a significant ongoing contributor to environmental law and economics.

Judging by his blog posts, anyway, Adler is deeply concerned about the environment, but unwilling to endorse any policy that has a chance to be adopted.


85 Elizabeth Imlac July 12, 2017 at 9:24 am

Adler is a hack. If he counts as an intellectual, then Krugman is right.


86 TamilGuy July 12, 2017 at 10:44 am

Adler can be replaced with AI in 2 years.

. . . derp, derp, tragdy of the commons, derp, derp, . . .


87 Jack July 12, 2017 at 9:26 am

Krugman’s role, like that of the NYT, Fox News, etc. is to get the faithful on their feet — rather than try to persuade someone who might have a different point of view. What distinguishes Krugman is that many years ago he was an academician who did some serious work. Given his Enron role his smug reference to “subservience to corporate interests” is shall we say rich.


88 A Definite Beta Guy July 12, 2017 at 10:06 am

Krugman reminds me of that reserved nerd who turns into a giant jerk whenever he’s online. IMO, he’d benefit if he stopped writing and read SSC until he vicariously absorbs the virtues of steel-manning and charitable disagreement.


89 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ July 12, 2017 at 9:57 am

Conservative philosophy is exile. Though to be fair, at this point in American history, perhaps any philosophy is exile.

Until we expunge the petty and transactional.



90 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ July 12, 2017 at 10:10 am

Re-upping Smith on the American ideology, still widely held, but underrated as a solution:



91 Patrick M July 12, 2017 at 10:01 am

The problem with Krugman, as usual, is that he doesn’t engage with the strongest arguments of those with opposing views.


92 The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2017 at 10:15 am

Environmental stewardship is not a liberal cause. It’s already equated with racism.

Who are “conservatives?” Hillaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton or Bill Kristol and David Frum? The former would probably be denounced as, what else, “fascists” by the latter. Not True Conservatives.

“Conservatives” are irrevocably split at this point between the Clash-Of-Civilizations camp and the End-Of-History camp. One side says conservatism means conserving a civilization and the other says conservatism means conserving universalist ideals. I’m of the view that the latter operationally results in conservatives forever apologizing Left and punching Right, thereby consolidating progressivist gains–impotent Whig “conservatism” which conserves nothing. So that’s my Not True Conservative two cents.

I’d say the Golden Age of conservative intellectuals would be the late Victorian period of Belloc and Chesterton. Kipling was astounding as well. C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Enoch Powell were the last heirs to that intellectual tradition. I’m biased toward England (which is where Belloc ended up), so there are doubtless some Continental thinkers I’m overlooking.

I agree with Krugman: conservatism in its ideological, universalist iteration has never had an intellectual Golden Age.


93 Tarrou July 12, 2017 at 10:27 am

The golden age of conservative intellectuals is always whenever the Republicans were last out of office.


94 Thiago Ribeiro July 12, 2017 at 11:13 am

There was a time when American thought was relevant, but not now, it is not.


95 Libtard July 12, 2017 at 11:14 am

Krugman is so irrelevant that you all are commenting about his writing.


96 gab July 12, 2017 at 11:59 am

I’m curious about UCLA’s influence in environmental economics. My boss’s son is a Business Econ major at UCLA currently and I’d like to point him to the department or professors who are doing work in this field. Are there any names at UCLA that I can direct him to?


97 Anon7 July 12, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Krugman of course mostly selects the pre-occupations of lefties like himself. Conservatives do not indulge in envy obsessing about economic inequality, promiscuously mint a new universal “right” to health care paid for by others, or worship Gaia. How about crime (the left these days does little more than rant about racist cops), the family (which the left is busy deconstructing), welfare (the left opposed and seeks to undermine welfare reform), etc.?


98 Thomas July 12, 2017 at 9:27 pm

What is the intellectual case for intersectionality, anti-nuclear, deleting borders, taking millions for personal foundations, BLM, etc? What a joke.


99 The Anti-Gnostic July 13, 2017 at 12:48 am

It’s hilarious how Tyler frantically apologizes Leftward on environmentalism when the Left has already declared environmentalism to be an evil, white, patriarchal scheme.



100 jorod July 13, 2017 at 9:40 pm

Sometimes I think that members of academe live in a mayonnaise jar. If any of you had lived in an industrial city, you would know that the air and water quality has improved over the last 50 years. But living in Washington, DC, you don’t understand these things. The biggest problem is auto pollution. A problem created by government policies encouraging auto travel. Most of our problems are caused by government, not private property owners.


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