Paul Krugman’s latest

If you read blogs, you probably already have made up your mind about Paul Krugman. When perusing his new The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century, I found myself continually reminded how smart he is, what a good writer he is, and how often he is right. He led the way in publicizing the fiscal irresponsibility of the current Bush administration. I disagree with his politics, but his points have enough force to make me squirm.

If you are wondering, the book is basically his New York Times columns.

I like him best when he stays away from his pet hobby horses. Krugman gets through his essays on Robert Mundell, and the Swedish economic boom — both tight and thought-provoking pieces — without once attacking George W. Bush or calling the Republicans evil.

But these days I can never forget the other Paul Krugman, the one who keeps free market and right-wing bloggers so busy. The Krugman of self-righteousness, sloppiness with the facts, and ad hominem attacks. The Krugman Truth Squad remains. There are many examples of this other Krugman, I was struck by one particular example, taken from Donald Luskin:

Paul Krugman, September 2, 2003:

“I admire the virtues of free markets as much as anyone.”

Now this could make a great party game. Let’s see, where do I begin…? How about, Paul Krugman, June 20, 1999:

“The question of how to keep demand adequate to make use of the capacity has become crucial. Depression economics is back. …in a world where there is often not enough demand to go around, the case for free markets is a hard case to make.”

My take: Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by “as anyone.”

Addendum: Perusing the book more, I find Krugman (p.27) also writes: “I like the theory of efficient financial markets as much as anyone.” Four pages later, he writes, from a different column: “The more I look at the amazing rise of the U.S. stock market, the more I become convinced that we are looking at a mammoth psychological problem.” He also writes of “Seven Habits of Highly Defective Investors” (p.27) and calls them “an extremely dangerous flock of financial sheep.” (p.30)


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