So Krugman doesn’t have a Google+ account, and therefore did NOT post this: “People on twitter might be joking, but in all seriousness, we would see a bigger boost in spending and hence economic growth if the earthquake had done more damage.”
Krugman (naturally) is outraged that gullible right-wing pundits could have believed he’d say something so outrageous:
[T]he hoaxer was trying to make my (correct) assertions in the past that even useless spending can be expansionary sound as if I revel in disaster. Those who can’t argue rationally, resort to fakery.
Also, the gullibility on display was impressive. All these right-wing hacks knew it must be a genuine quote, because they all knew that I’m a terrible person — based on past distortions!
But hold on a second. The reason I thought the quote was legitimate, was that it didn’t “revel in disaster.” The fake quotation doesn’t say, “It’s too bad the earthquake didn’t do more damage.” No, the fake quotation gave neutral economic analysis–and didn’t conflate wealth with employment–in a manner entirely consistent with Matt Yglesias saying that breaking windows creates jobs/economic growth:
The fact that breaking windows would make a society poorer (fewer windows) is precisely why nobody ever proposes stimulating the economy by deliberately smashing windows. But the way the dialogue works is that first a Keynesian observes that fiscal stimulus can increase growth in a depressed economy. Second, as an attempted reductio, a conservative says “if that was true, then you could increase growth by breaking a bunch of windows.” Third, the Keynesian accurately points out that you could, in fact, increase growth by breaking windows. Fourth, the conservative accuses Keynesians of wanting to break windows or believing that window-breaking increases wealth.
Krugman endorses the above; notice that my link goes to Krugman, not Yglesias’ original post.
So yes, it’s bad that someone put up a fake Krugman quotation, but I don’t see what’s “wrong” with it from Krugman’s. perspective. That is an entirely accurate summary of his worldview. Just as he’s not calling for an alien invasion (though he arguably is calling for a hoax of an alien invasion), the fake-Krugman in the Google+ account wasn’t calling for a worse earthquake. He was just spitting out standard macro. (And hence, demonstrating that standard macro is nuts.)
UPDATE: Some commenters on this topic over at EPJ gave me the courage to voice my cynicism. When I read the original Google+ post (it’s now down), some of Krugman’s fans were defending him. And one of them said something like, “Good to know you actually post here, Dr. Krugman! I’ve been following you for weeks and thought a Times administrator handled this. I thought this was just an outlet for your columns and blog posts.”
Now maybe my memory is off, or maybe the person merely meant he was following Krugman on Twitter or something, but… is it true that this allegedly fake Google+ account was up for weeks, before this one-time “crazy” Krugman quote (which is actually totally consistent with everything else he’s said)?