…should be established. Yes I am now starting to think there is a “Krugman Derangement Syndrome,” because people seem to have an amazing inability to parse objections thrown his way.
Today’s case in point: Noah Smith, but first I have to give some context:
Ed Prescott (a Nobel laureate) recently gave a quote to a NYT reporter saying, “It is an established scientific fact that monetary policy has had virtually no effect on output and employment in the U.S. since the formation of the Fed.” So of course both Keynesians and Market Monetarists were flipping out, and (assuming that quote is in context) I agree Prescott should have been clearer about what he was saying, since as-is so many economists would dispute it. (My guess is that he meant we all agree money is neutral in the long-run, and that we’ve been doing QE for years now so let’s admit this isn’t working, blah blah blah.)
But that’s not the issue for our post right now. No, the issue is Noah Smith, and how he can’t read good. But we still need more to set up the story:
Chris House was discussing Prescott’s statement about monetary policy and how it was nutty. House’s point was that this shouldn’t surprise us too much, since Nobel laureates are not your normal folks and they are only experts in a narrow field. Then, to illustrate that we shouldn’t be so shocked that Prescott would utter such a ridiculous statement about monetary policy, House offered the throwaway line: “Even Paul Krugman has been known to say some rather nutty things.” As you can imagine, people flipped out about that line too (and probably not the same group of people who had flipped out about Prescott’s line).
Now then we are ready to parse Noah Smith, who chimed in with this:
“Even Paul Krugman has been known to say some rather nutty things at times.”
Chris House was a bit surprised when that statement received considerable pushback. It seems like an innocuous, throwaway line, sort of like when a political writer says “and of course the Democratic party has its extremists too.” A gesture toward centrism.
No Noah, your analogy doesn’t work. You changed the “Even” to “and of course.” Words mean things, and when you change them, you might change the meaning of the sentence.
Here’s what would be analogous if you want to take Chris House’s discussion and make it about political parties:
“Mark Sanford’s continued career in politics shouldn’t shock us, despite his marital infidelity. This is actually common among politicians, who are very charming and hold power. Even Bill Clinton has been known to cheat on his wife.”
So unless that was supposed to be a flat-out joke, then yeah such an absurd statement would indeed be worthy of “considerable pushback.” I don’t know Chris House’s writing style, but from this one post it looked like he was being whimsical at best; his point wasn’t, “Good grief, Krugman is the epitome of a Nobel laureate who says eight crazy things by lunchtime.”
And even if that is what House meant, it’s not how Noah defended him.
Hence, the obvious need for a School for Keynesians Who Can’t Read Good.