25 Mar 2013

More On Krugman Judging People On Their Records

Krugman 45 Comments

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?

45 Responses to “More On Krugman Judging People On Their Records”

  1. The Narrator says:

    Paul Krugman wrote:

    “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?””
    Haha!

    “Do I fall into the sin of self-centered opinionating?”
    Hahaha!

    ” No doubt; I am very much a fallible human being.”
    Hahahaha!

    “But I try not to, which includes admitting when I was wrong.”
    Hahahahaha!

  2. Bob Roddis says:

    As long as we are talking Iraq war cheerleaders, I’m posting this again because these interviews are amazing. I highly recommend listening to each of these Scott Horton interviews which examine in detail the lies and more lies about the Iraq invasion told by both the Neocons and their media hacks:

    3/22/13 Peter Hart
    3/22/13 Daniel McAdams
    3/20/13 Greg Mitchell
    3/19/13 Dahr Jamail
    3/19/13 Jonathan Landay
    3/15/13 Eric Margolis
    3/15/13 Karen Kwiatkowski

    http://scotthorton.org/all-interviews/

  3. Joseph Fetz says:

    I cannot help but think that Krugman is being a hypocrite of the highest order here.

  4. Yosef says:

    Bob, Yglesias gets a pass because, in the link in the discussion article, he openly admits his mistake and discusses his reasons for it. Krugman draws a distinction between those like Paul Ryan or Dick Cheney who have made terrible predictions or support terrible ideas and are unapologetic when they are proven wrong, and just keep beating the same failed ideas. Yglesias by contrasts admits his mistakes, and so is more credible. I think there is a lot of value in Yglesias’s discussion of fake-dissident posture.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Yosef, this is what Krugman wrote in reference to her piece:

      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?

      So you thought Krugman here wanted the answer to be, “Yes we can!” ? Are you kidding me?

      The issue isn’t whether Yglesias is or is not a jerk. The issue is, Krugman linking to this piece and castigating the pundits described–even the ones who later changed their tune–without dealing with the fact that Krugman publicly embraced the first such pundit described.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Yosef, your comment truly astounds me. The Greier piece doesn’t mention “those like Paul Ryan or Dick Cheney who have made terrible predictions or support terrible ideas and are unapologetic when they are proven wrong.” No, the article specifically says: “What follows is a taxonomy of certain pundits on the center and the left who, to their eternal shame, beat the drums of war — hard.” It talks about several people who were otherwise critical of the Bush Administration, but nonetheless supported the Iraq invasion.

      I grant you, Yosef, your statement about Krugman is accurate. That’s why his linking to this piece is so incomprehensible to me. But I guess if it didn’t faze you to talk about the piece in a way that made no sense, it shouldn’t faze Krugman either.

      (I’m sorry if this sounds over the top, but I can’t believe you took a piece specifically singling out centrists and leftists as being a piece about right wingers. That’s my whole point here–Krugman linking to this is nonsensical. I think he’s probably endorsed Friedman on climate change and Sullivan on social issues or whatever, too, I just couldn’t find a smoking gun like I did with Yglesias.)

      • Yosef says:

        Bob, yes I thought the answer to Krugmans’ question would be “Yes, we can. Here are the pundits who had the same self reflection as you do”

        I referenced Paul Ryan and Dick Cheney as the contrasts to the type of people who actually do reflect and admit mistakes, which were featured in that article. The article is about some centrists and left wingers who admitted their mistake (and some that didn’t) so I contrasted it with right wingers who refuse to admit their mistakes, on which Krugman has previously harped on.

        I didn’t read Krugman’s post as necessarily castigating all the pundits mentioned in the article, but just stressing the moral obligation of journalists and pundits. That’s why I read that last question as an honest point.

        • Dan says:

          ‘Bob, yes I thought the answer to Krugmans’ question would be “Yes, we can. Here are the pundits who had the same self reflection as you do”’

          LOL!

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          re: “I didn’t read Krugman’s post as necessarily castigating all the pundits mentioned in the article, but just stressing the moral obligation of journalists and pundits. That’s why I read that last question as an honest point.”

          Exactly.

          Since when has favorably linking someone meant agreeing with every single jot and tittle.

          • Ken B says:

            What about where Krugman said that a pundit who makes an error should be ignored forever? You can’t pretend that’s anything but a pretext for ignoring people. Which is kinda Bob’s point.

            • Yosef says:

              Ken, Krugman said those people don’t have a right to be taken seriously thereafter. That is, they have to earn seriousness back after being wrong, by acknowledging their mistake and admitting their errors. It is not a a right to be taken seriously, not a given, but can be recovered by honest admission of mistake and rethinking things.

              But maybe Daniel and I just have a more charitable reading of Krugman than Bob. It’s just the Christian in us.

            • Daniel Kuehn says:

              I’m not exactly sure what instance you’re referring to but if he actually said that, I’d say that’s dumb.

              Now you could abuse Krugman for not following his own dictum (if indeed he did say that), but I think it’s better to abuse Krugman for pronouncing the dictum in the first place.

              • Ken B says:

                It’s above, ending “thereafter”.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Yosef wrote:

          I didn’t read Krugman’s post as necessarily castigating all the pundits mentioned in the article

          C’mon you guys, this is getting ridiculous. Yosef, read the everything in Krugman’s post before that point (when he asks the rhetorical question about “Can you say the same?”) Like this part:

          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.

          So Yosef, you thought here Krugman was setting himself up to praise the people in the linked article? You guys are something else sometimes. If you want to just say, “Bob, Krugman is one guy, get a life,” OK you may have a point. But let’s please stop ignoring the plain meaning of his words.

          • Ken B says:

            “But let’s please stop ignoring the plain meaning of his words.”

            OK, on *this* thread I agree with Bob. The article PK praises is dreck, just speculation about motivations. PK is, as Bob notes, being awfully darmned selective about who he praises and who he condemns. But still this bit is striking. I have a short response to that one: OLG.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          “Bob, yes I thought the answer to Krugmans’ question would be “Yes, we can. Here are the pundits who had the same self reflection as you do””

          BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

          I mean…I don’t…this can’t be…

  5. Daniel Kuehn says:

    I don’t get it Bob.

    First, can’t Krugman agree with the thrust of the piece on pundits and Iraq without agreeing with her take on every single person mentioned?

    Second, what if Krugman simply wasn’t aware in 2011 that Yglesias had endorsed the Iraq war (I wasn’t aware he did until I read your post today).

    Third, what if Krugman didn’t like that but though that there was a lot more to consider in a person besides whether we agree with them on the Iraq war? And as people have pointed out: Yglesias did exactly what Krugman wanted him to do – so what’s the issue?

    • Daniel Kuehn says:

      You try way too hard on Krugman IMO

      • Bob Murphy says:

        DK wrote:

        You try way too hard on Krugman IMO

        If by “try” you mean “I read his blog posts and take him seriously,” I agree. If by “try” you mean I twist his words, I disagree.

      • Bob Roddis says:

        DK doesn’t try way too hard on Tom Woods.

        Daniel KuehnMay 31, 2012 at 7:53 AM

        Tom Woods attempts to debunk Keynesianism and Tom Woods falls flat on his face?

        You should really try to make your posts less redundant LK.

        http://tinyurl.com/ctnbejb

        • Daniel Kuehn says:

          A classic.

          Come on – Tom Woods has good thinking on all sorts of things, but his attempts at debunking Keynesianism are uniformly awful.

          • Richie says:

            In your Keynesian opinion.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              The thing about Keynesians that makes me laugh the most, is the almost universal belief among them that Keynes refuted Say’s Law, even though he didn’t even understand it.

            • Razer says:

              Keyne’s was debunked 50+ years prior to his entry onto the stage. His whole philosophy was debunked and was considered the the mark of a bad economist. DK, you have no understanding of economics and, if I’m not mistaken, aren’t you the one who supported killing peaceful secessionists? Funny how Keynesian thinking destroys morality, no? I wonder if you’d honor a death pact your great grandfather entered you in or would you suddenly see the virtues of natural rights and the NAP.

              • Oderus Urungus says:

                DK is the blogosphere’s version of Vyshinsky.

              • Ken B says:

                Oderus, thank you! I collect Vyshinsky references;there is no surer way to my heart. Alas you seem not to know who he was. But I appreciate the effort!

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Yup, it’s obvious Oderus doesn’t know who he was, because DK has absolutely zero similarities with him. Nothing. It’s not funny at all either. Nope.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      DK wrote:

      First, can’t Krugman agree with the thrust of the piece on pundits and Iraq without agreeing with her take on every single person mentioned?

      He could, but if so he wouldn’t have written his rhetorical question. I can’t believe you guys think he meant, “SOME of the people in this piece are upstanding human beings–try to find them, and Waldo!”

      Second, what if Krugman simply wasn’t aware in 2011 that Yglesias had endorsed the Iraq war (I wasn’t aware he did until I read your post today).

      OK that’s fine. Let’s see if he stops linking to Yglesias from now on, concerning monetary policy.

      Third, what if Krugman didn’t like that but though that there was a lot more to consider in a person besides whether we agree with them on the Iraq war?

      ???? Then he would have to drop his whole point. He has been blasting away on his blog for weeks now, saying that we have to stop listening to the people who got it so wrong on the Iraq War. Just like we have to stop listening to the austerians who thought price inflation and interest rates would rise.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        As I said, I cannot help but thing that Krugman is a hypocrite of the highest order. Why Daniel cannot see this is beyond me. But Bob, you really must leave Waldo out of this. He didn’t do anything, he just wants to be found, like baby Jessica in the well.

  6. Daniel Kuehn says:

    re: “It’s possible he gets a pass because he was in college at the time”

    Nope.

    I was in college at the time. I knew it was wrong. Why does this give him a pass?

  7. The Narrator says:

    In the article Krugman links to Yglesias is described as someone who
    1) supported the war out of contrarianism
    2) wrote a refreshingly honest piece afterwards examining his motives.

    So Yglesias was wrong for petty personal reasons and if we then look at Krugman’s piece we see that he would think that Yglesias was somebody
    1) who “[has] a right to be wrong (although [he doesn't] have a right to be taken seriously, or employed in the opinion-giving business, thereafter); [he doesn’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.”
    2) who did do what Krugman says is essential, namely “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.”

    So Yglesias did something very wrong and therefore doesn’t have a right to be taken seriously as a pundit, and because what he did wrong was at the expense of other people’s lives and livelihoods and for petty, personal reasons he doesn’t have a right to be wrong, but he did fulfill his moral obligations as a pundit.
    And then a couple of years afterwards Krugman says of Yglesias: “But it actually has a great roster now, and Yglesias makes it even better.”

    In summary, Krugman is kind of all over the place and contradicting himself like there is no tomorrow.

    One crucial point that potentially undermines all this is one that Daniel makes though “what if Krugman simply wasn’t aware in 2011 that Yglesias had endorsed the Iraq war (I wasn’t aware he did until I read your post today).” If this is true and if Krugman were to consider Yglesias in a considerably worse light since krugman found out about Yglesias’s war support, then Krugman is not being inconsistent.

    I also detected the following strawmen and other issues in the comments:

    Daniel wrote: “Since when has favorably linking someone meant agreeing with every single jot and tittle.” (Nobody ever remotely argued or implied this. This is a typical Kuehnian strawman. The crucial bit is not in just the linking but in the sentence Murphy quotes “Can you say the same of any of the pundits Geier mentions — including those who later changed their tune?” )

    Daniel wrote: “First, can’t Krugman agree with the thrust of the piece on pundits and Iraq without agreeing with her take on every single person mentioned?” (But Krugman writing “Can you say the same of any of the pundits Geier mentions — including those who later changed their tune?” obviously means, as Murphy points out, that he doesn’t think this holds for any of the pundits, that his question was rhetorical.)

    Daniel wrote: “You try way too hard on Krugman IMO” (while potentially true, this particular example may not be an instyance of it since as argued above it appears to be fair (unless Krugman did not know about Yglesias’s war support before 2011. it is also a form of projection since the very same thing can be said about Daniel going out of his way to try to find some possible interpretation, no matter how stretched or unfair, of things libertarians and/or Austrians wrote to make those come out as unreasonable or unfair or immoral (you apologized to Don Boudreaux yet, Daniel?)

  8. The Narrator says:

    Now I’m not so sure anymore. On the one hand when Krugman writes “Can you say the same of any of the pundits Geier mentions — including those who later changed their tune?” it sounds like an obviously rhetorical question.

    But on the other hand Yglesias, as others have noted, did exactly what Krugman says pundits should do, so the answer to Krugman’s rhetorical question above seems to actually be ‘yes, namely Yglesias’.

    That’s odd.

    Another odd thing is that Krugman talks about pundits not having the right to be wrong when they are so on issues that affect people’s lives and livelihoods and when they are wrong for petty, personal reasons. But such issues include just about any kind of public policy question one can think of. So what krugman is saying is basically that pundits have no right to be wrong when they are so for petty, personal reasons. Okay, this may be too harsh a standard as 1) it’s obviously often not obvious when one is right and when one is wrong, 2) e.g. in science epistemic virtue can result from epistemic vice.

    And of course krugman’s post is blatantly hypocritical as can be seen from witnessing the various ways in which krugman has responded to criticism over his having called for a housing bubble, e.g. he 1) responded to s strawman criticism (‘I caused the housing bubble?! please’), 2) said he meant it as a joke (which it obviously wasn’t), 3) some other thing I can’t remember now.

    So he is obviously not engaging in honest self-reflection on why he was wrong, or even admitting that he was wrong in the first place.

  9. The Narrator says:

    so it’s sort of a new form of a Krugman Kontradiction, this time one involving an apparent tension not between two aspects of the content, but between tone (its sounding like a rhetorical question) and content.

  10. The Narrator says:

    Daniel wrote:

    “re: “It’s possible he gets a pass because he was in college at the time”
    Nope.
    I was in college at the time. I knew it was wrong. Why does this give him a pass?”

    To be sure, Murphy is not saying that he agrees with that, but only that reasoning from Krugman’s point of view this may be the case as the author of the article Krugman quotes wrote: “First let’s consider the contrarians. Young Matthew Yglesias, who was in college at the time and thus deserves to be excused”

    Anyway, good to know that if this is what Krugman agrees with as well, you wouldn’t agree with him.

  11. The Narrator says:

    Okay, I think I was wrong when I wrote: “But on the other hand Yglesias, as others have noted, did exactly what Krugman says pundits should do, so the answer to Krugman’s rhetorical question above seems to actually be ‘yes, namely Yglesias’.”

    Yglesias didn’t do exactly what Krugman said pundits should do. According to Krugman, pundits should do the self-examination *before* they give their opinion/analysis (and also later admit when they were wrong) and this Yglesias didn’t do.

    So I guess then my initial point stands. The question Krugman asks was indeed a rhetorical question. So Murphy wins, Daniel and Josef lose.

  12. Ken B says:

    I don’t get the popularity of Yglesias. For one thing I have seen too many credible bloggers nail him for distorting what they meant. And I have seen too many things from him that make me shake my head.

  13. Bob Murphy says:

    EVERYBODY: Here’s what I think happened. I think Krugman was lazy and linked to her piece without really reading it carefully. I think he assumed she was blasting right-wingers, and didn’t realize she was focusing on leftists whom Krugman has linked favorably on other issues (Yglesias on everything, Thomas Friedman on climate change, Andrew Sullivan on gay marriage or whatever, Christopher Hitchens on Christian-bashing). I have no smoking guns on the last three in my list, I’m just making those up, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    So to repeat, if *I* read Greier’s piece, I wouldn’t have come away thinking Yglesias was a monster. Yet that is the clear meaning of the words in Krugman’s description. So my only conclusion is that Krugman has been beating the drums on killing war pundits lately, was behind on his blogging, saw her piece, and linked to it without carefully reading it. An implausible theory, but as Sherlock says, when you eliminate every other possibility, this has to be it.

    • Matt M says:

      Right. I think this is the most likely scenario. I would just add that I think it’s entirely possible that when Krugman thinks of Yglesias, he thinks “good little obedient progressive who agrees with me on everything of importance,” and either didn’t know, or didn’t recall at the time that Yglesias supported the war.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Bingo.

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        Concur. He got sloppy and it is now up to his minions to clean up the mess, which is just sewage waste in comparison.

  14. Bob Roddis says:

    Krugman loves Yglesias because he writes this kind of stuff about Tom Woods and Ron Paul without ever acknowledging or comprehending the actual Austrian analysis:

    Bored by the proceedings at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul one day in 2008, I decided to try to gather some color down the road in Minneapolis, where Ron Paul and fellow dissident conservatives and libertarians were holding a counter-convention at the Target Center. At one point a speaker [Tom Woods] thundered that Barack Obama and John McCain “both have a lot to learn about Austrian business-cycle theory.” The crowd went delirious with cheers, and soon chants of “end the Fed” echoed throughout the arena.

    It was funny at the time. A bunch of cranks talking about their crank monetary theories and espousing a crank prescription.

    Today, Paul is the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Monetary Policy.

    http://www.democracyjournal.org/20/fed-up.php?page=all

  15. Bob Roddis says:

    From antiwar.com, Washington Post Censors Critique of Pre-Iraq Invasion Media Coverage:

    http://antiwar.com/blog/2013/03/26/washington-post-censors-critique-of-pre-iraq-invasion-media-coverage/

  16. Tel says:

    Krugman cannot honestly call himself anti-war. Sure he has been anti-Republican in the past, and then the Republicans were pro-war then Krugman was happy to say what a bad idea it was.

    However, once Obama got to the Whitehouse, not a peep out of Krugman over the drone bombers, or the messup at Benghazi (not to mention Hillary blatently not answering simple questions), or the supposed closing of Gitmo that never happened, or the guns that “walked” into Mexico and how the Attorney General continues to hide documentation from Congress.

    EVERYBODY: Here’s what I think happened. I think Krugman was lazy and linked to her piece without really reading it carefully. I think he assumed she was blasting right-wingers, and didn’t realize she was focusing on leftists whom Krugman has linked favorably on other issues (Yglesias on everything, Thomas Friedman on climate change, Andrew Sullivan on gay marriage or whatever, Christopher Hitchens on Christian-bashing). I have no smoking guns on the last three in my list, I’m just making those up, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    This does give you a clue of how to get Krugman to do your heavy lifting for you. Just start your article by bashing some Republicans (you can always find someone who deserves it). Since Krugman will probably not bother to read past that, you can talk about anything you want for the remainder of the article. There’s a name for this technique, but I can’t remember it.

  17. Ken B says:

    As an unwonted irenic gesture, a random act of music before the Easter break. We may live in the age of fiat not gold money, but we live in the golden age of the accordion (who knew?). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ri_bNZyMd30

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