In a previous post, I walked through just how hilarious it was, that Krugman complains about people not punishing policymakers who had bad economic predictions, when he himself said there was no one he’d rather be reappointed than Ben Bernanke.
Today I’ve got another gem. In this post, Krugman writes:
The excellent Kathleen Geier — give this woman a bigger job! — has a terrific piece on pundit sins in the runup to the Iraq war, which has applicability to lots of other issues too.
I say “sins”, not just “mistakes”, advisedly. People have a right to be wrong (although they don’t have a right to be taken seriously, or employed in the opinion-giving business, thereafter); they don’t have a right to be wrong, at the expense of other peoples’ lives or livelihoods, for petty, personal reasons. Yet that’s exactly what happened among the war-mongers. As Geier says,
The inability of these pundits to think straight may simply be a symptom of narcissism poisoning. For them, invasion and war were all about presenting their preferred face to the world — and to themselves.
If you’re in the pundit business, you have a moral obligation always to second-guess your own motives, to ask yourself “Am I saying this because I’ve really thought it through? Or am I just feeding my ego?” And let’s be clear: ego-feeding happens on the left as well as the right, on matters economic and social as well as on questions of war and piece.
Do I fall into the sin of self-centered opinionating? No doubt; I am very much a fallible human being. But I try not to, which includes admitting when I was wrong. Can you say the same of any of the pundits Geier mentions — including those who later changed their tune?
Harsh words, eh? Now if you go to Ms. Geier’s piece, you’ll see the very first pundit discussed is Matt Yglesias. Don’t worry, Dr. Krugman! I have mocked that guy for years. He goes with fads and follows the “experts” on monetary policy, just like he admitted he did on Iraq. I would never in a million years write something like this in November 2011:
I’m late on this, but Matt Yglesias has been hired by Slate. Good for him, and them.
I wrote for Slate from 1996 to 1999, in effect cutting my teeth in this popular-writing business, and found it a great experience. Slate has lately gotten something of a bad rep for being the home of snarky contrarianism, and I guess I don’t think back on this incident fondly. But it actually has a great roster now, and Yglesias makes it even better.
UPDATE: For full nuance, click through and read the discussion of Yglesias. It’s possible he gets a pass because he was in college at the time, but by the same token I don’t take him seriously even now. When the dollar crashes, are we going to excuse him because he embraced Scott Sumner in his late 20s with no formal economics training?