…before his Keynesian colleagues abandon him? In a recent post Krugman writes:
Mark Thoma catches Kevin Hassett playing for Team Republican; really, no surprise. But Mark’s catch has me thinking: what, if anything, would make reasonable, moderate conservative intellectuals accept that the GOP no longer offers them a home?
For such people do exist — or at least there is such a position. You can believe that the welfare state is too big without believing that the unemployed are just lazy; you can believe that more activist monetary and especially fiscal policy would be a mistake without practicing Dark Age macroeconomics. Obviously I disagree, but I can see how a reasonable person could hold such views.
But these are not the views that prevail, or indeed are considered even marginally acceptable, in today’s Republican Party. The modern party is, on social issues, the party of Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum; on economic issues it is the party of Ron Paul and Arthur Laffer. Nobody with political ambitions within the GOP dares challenge these views; attempts to defend Mitt Romney depend entirely on the proposition, or maybe hope, that everything he says is a lie (which seems like a good assumption in any case).
And no, there’s nothing comparable on the other side. Sure, Obama plays some word games — but in word and deed he’s a moderately liberal, slightly interventionist politician whom neither liberals nor, if truth be told, moderate conservatives should find especially alarming.
So when do the reasonable conservatives jump ship? David Frum and Bruce Bartlett have done the deed; but who else?
Of course, maybe the people we think are reasonable actually aren’t. Some supposedly libertarian bloggers have let down their guard, coming out in favor of the vile Virginia probe law and the Rush slut attack, and revealing in the process that all that reasonableness was just a facade.
But what’s mainly going on, I think, is cynical ambition — an unwillingness to take the hit to hopes of future office and influence that would come from acknowledging that this is not the Republican Party of yore.
So on the “Rush slut attack” phrase, Krugman of course is linking to a story about Steve Landsburg and his controversial role in the Fluke Fiasco. Regular readers know I think Landsburg’s defenders have gone overboard, but I am quite surprised to see Krugman somehow spinning this as Steve’s attempt to play for “Team Republican.”
I mean seriously, anyone even remotely familiar with Landsburg knows that Krugman’s analysis of motives is preposterous. So Krugman launched that personal attack either (a) without having a clue of what he was talking about or (b) knowing full well it was a lie. Take your pick.
Even though I personally know this wasn’t a case of Steve “letting his guard down” and forgetting to put on his fake libertarian mask–while secretly pining to get the nod from the Council of Economic Advisors–I decided to make it official. I googled “George W Bush” at Landsburg’s blog and within 30 seconds I was reading from this post, which Landsburg put up in January 2011:
The LA Times reports that Republican lawmakers have called on the Obama administration to return to the Bush-era practice of sending jackbooted thugs into private workplaces to arrest illegal aliens — revealing (as if we didn’t already know) that virulent xenophobia is alive and well in the Republican party. (Note well the hypocrisy of complaining that foreigners sneak into our country to take advantage of the welfare system, and then addressing the problem by focusing your deportation efforts on foreigners who have obviously come here to work).
Now it’s true, in that post Steve goes on to say that the Democrats are probably slightly more shameful on this dimension than the Republicans, but it is hardly a rah-rah-let’s-go-GOP piece.
In contrast, let’s remember the beautiful quotation I highlighted in this masterpiece:
A funny thing has been happening on Capitol Hill: lately, the Democrats have started exceeding expectations. Health reform, pronounced dead by all the usual suspects, happened (all hail Nancy Pelosi, arguably the greatest Speaker ever). —Paul Krugman, May 16, 2010.
Also, let’s not forget that Krugman constantly pats himself on the back for warning everybody about the bogus propaganda being offered by the White House in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Has Krugman said a single word about the current saber-rattling about Iran? Is that because he thinks there is a much better case for Iran?
(On that score, let me acknowledge that Brad DeLong recently went nuts at his blog over an Orwellian statement by Eric Holder [sorry no link]. So I think DeLong is actually an ideological Keynesian, more than a starter for Team Democrat.)
In closing, let me turn Krugman’s post around and ask his colleagues: What more does this guy have to do, before you agree he’s gone too far? I can’t understand why “nice guy” Karl Smith threw in the towel on this issue. Karl seems to be saying (my paraphrase), “Yes, if it were just an academic dispute with nothing really at stake, then being cordial to your opponents would be important and productive. But since the world economy and real lives are at stake, I think Krugman’s childish insults and petty misrepresentation of his opponents is the right thing to do.”
To repeat, I’m obviously paraphrasing–quite heavily–what Karl actually said, but since I think the above is a legitimate paraphrase, you can see why I don’t understand his apparent conversion to the Way of Krugman.
Let me put it this way: Guys like me, who think government intervention constitutes theft and is therefore impermissible, obviously aren’t going to be swayed by a new econometric study of the multiplier. But there are plenty of economists who are on the fence. And when Krugman acts like Scott Farkus (the guy with yellow eyes), a lot of these scholars on the fence are going to actively root against him. They’re going to subconsciously hope price inflation picks up while unemployment stays high, because people can’t stand a bully. So if you think Krugman has been giving spot-on policy recommendations, you should recognize that his boorish behavior (considered as a partial derivative, if you will) makes it less likely that people will embrace the correct policies.
In contrast, from my perspective, I’m glad Krugman handles himself like such a jerk.