Explaining Paul Krugman

Greg Mankiw is rightly exasperated with Paul Krugman’s propensity to write columns that “[take] a policy favored by the right, [attribute] the most vile motives to those who advance the policy, and [ignore] all the reasonable arguments in favor of it.” There are two possible reasons why Krugman likes doing this kind of thing:

  1. Krugman actually believes that the most vile motives should be attributed to people who advance policies that he doesn’t like, which indicates that Krugman is epistemically closed off from competing theories and beliefs; or
  2. Krugman knows that he is engaging in rhetorical excess, but does it anyway because rhetorical excess is what his fan base wants, and they love him for providing it on a regular basis.

Neither scenario makes Krugman look good. And neither scenario makes the New York Times look good for giving Krugman a platform, and refusing to check his worst impulses.

The latest example of Krugmaniac rhetorical excess can be found here; note Krugman’s almost casual comment that the Koch brothers (seriously, what is with the port-side obsession with these guys?) are supposedly “serious evildoers who use their wealth to push hard-line right-wing, anti-environmental policies that redound very much to their own benefit.” “Serious evildoers!” The rhetoric takes your breath away because it’s . . . well . . . crazy. And because even without the standalone craziness of the statement, it’s more than a little appalling that Krugman doesn’t even go through the motions of entertaining the possibility that those who think differently from him may actually be motivated by good intentions, however little Krugman may think of their policy positions and political philosophies.

Do I really need to point out that the Kochs aren’t “serious evildoers” who “aren’t identified with innovation”? Fine; check out this post and the attendant links for an actual, fact/reality-based discussion of the Kochs. I am sure that the crack research staff at the New York Times would have been happy to track all of this information down for Paul Krugman, but again, either Krugman really does believe the insane-asylum rhetoric he types out, or he is willing and eager to cater to the worst prejudices of his audience, so there is no chance whatsoever that he would be willing to be mugged by reality on this issue. (This, of course, doesn’t mean that the rest of us cannot and should not point out the facts, if only to provide a counter-narrative to Krugman’s propaganda.)

While we are on the subject of the Kochs, I guess I have to point out the obvious: If the Democrats are pinning their midterm hopes on making two brothers the vast majority of Americans never heard of into SPECTRE-level villains, that says something about the parlous political position in which the party finds itself. Also, the Democrats’ most enthusiastic Koch-basher–no, not Krugman, though he certainly puts in his best effort to win the prize–is less popular than are the Kochs. Awkward.

Nota bene: Since I am sure that someone is going to cite this post as evidence for the proposition that I am in the pocket of the Kochs, let me respond with the following:

  1. I don’t receive a dime from the Kochs or any Koch-related entities.
  2. I never have received a dime from the Kochs or any Koch-related entities.
  3. I never will receive a dime from the Kochs or any Koch-related entities.
  4. If you somehow find a way to disprove the prediction found in (3) immediately above, I shall be your bestest, bestest buddy.