08 Oct 2013

Niall Ferguson vs. Krugtron the Vincible (sic), Part I

DeLong, Economics, Krugman 8 Comments

Niall Ferguson has apparently started a series at HuffPo, documenting Paul Krugman’s botched predictions over the last several years. (In case you don’t know, Krugman has been absolutely vicious against NF for years now.) Obviously I am predisposed to love such an endeavor, and what’s really great is that Ferguson catches some things that I had missed.

(Before giving my favorite example, let me state that as far as I can tell, Brad DeLong / Krugman were right to pounce on Ferguson for one of his points regarding the CBO’s projections of debt/GDP. I wouldn’t bet my life on it, but it certainly seems that Ferguson switched between two types of scenarios from last year to this year’s CBO reports, making it seem as if the debt outlook had gotten worse over the last 12 months.)

Anyway, back to Ferguon’s HuffPo piece, his main theme is that Krugman has been repeatedly wrong about the euro. He claimed dozens of times that its breakup was coming, with increasing degrees of confidence and imminence. On top of that, he said people who disagreed with him were “delusional” etc. So by the standards Krugman uses against the “inflationistas”… well, you get the idea.

But the thing that made me laugh out loud was Ferguson’s handling of Krugman’s thoughts on Europe. So the below is Ferguson writing, with quotations from Krugman:

To begin with, Krugman was blithely confident that Europe would weather the economic storm better than the United States. On January 11, 2008, he hailed it as “The Comeback Continent”:

[KRUGMAN in Jan 2008:]… Since 2000, employment has actually grown a bit faster in Europe than in the United States … If you think Europe is a place where lots of able-bodied adults just sit at home collecting welfare checks, think again. … Europe’s economy looks a lot better now – both in absolute terms and compared with our economy – than it did a decade ago.

Krugman explained Europe’s comeback in terms of “deregulation”, a more competitive broadband market than the U.S., “strong social safety nets” and “very high taxes.” On May 19, 2008, after a visit to Berlin, he even told his faithful readers: “I have seen the future, and it works … in the heart of ‘old Europe’.”…

Finally, in December 2008, Krugman woke up to the fact that the “Comeback Continent” was in fact an “economic mess.” But what kind of mess?…The mess Krugman discerned was the failure of the German government to see “the need for a large, pan-European fiscal stimulus.” The main thing, he wrote in March 2009, was not to make the mistake of thinking that “big welfare states are … the cause of Europe’s current crisis. In fact … they’re actually a mitigating factor.” It was a theme he returned to when he and I debated the crisis in New York three months later, when he argued that “the human suffering [was] going to be much greater on this side of the Atlantic” because of Europe’s “strong social safety net.” Even in January 2010 he was still insisting that:

[KRUGMAN in Jan 2010:] The real lesson from Europe is actually the opposite of what conservatives claim: Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works. … taking the longer view, the European economy works; it grows; it’s as dynamic, all in all, as our own.

All of this sheds (to say the least) interesting light on Krugman’s boast in an interview in March of this year to have been one of the few commentators who had “predicted the unfolding economic disaster in Europe.” This is by no means the only retrospective prediction Krugman has ever made, but it is surely the most shameless.

Good stuff.

8 Responses to “Niall Ferguson vs. Krugtron the Vincible (sic), Part I”

  1. Jim PM says:

    Someone should create a website called ‘Lol Krugman’ to document all his silliness.

    • Lio says:

      Agree! This guy is a clown!

  2. Brian Shelley says:

    I haven’t been keeping up with Krugman in recent months, but Ferguson’s links show that Krugman has come unhinged. Cockroaches? There’s a well documented history of that kind of rhetoric and genocidal behavior. Calling people dogs or pigs is across the line, but cockroaches is pretty much as extreme as dehumanizing language gets. He’s pretty much a sociopath at this point.

    • Hamsterdam Economics says:

      I’m not sure, Brian. I’d be more worried that we might be facing a Men in Black style villain in Ferguson here.

      Even when it comes to the question of the man’s species, my money’s with the guy who’s been right about everything.

    • RIchard Moss says:

      Oh come on – anyone who calls some people “cockroaches” is a genocidal sociopath? I am no fan of Krugman, but give me a break.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Brian, well, strictly speaking he is saying “cockroach ideas.” But yes, with his blog post title of “Cockroaches at…” it was very suggestive.

  3. Lester says:

    The Joe Scarborough debate was a turning point. Now he’s taking hits from all sides. Well, all the right wing sides anyway. It’s too bad NF’s foreign policy stuff is so bad and it is bad. The worst in fact, worse than the neocons even.

  4. Brian Shelley says:

    Do you see it in print? I read about 10 op-eds a day, and I don’t recall seeing any animal-based insults until then. It’s one thing to shoot your mouth off amongst friends. Clowns, criminals, jerks, idiots, body parts, expletives, all fine. Those kinds of things just show that you’re mad. Dehumanizing language like cockroaches and vermin, show an association with extermination. It’s the language of the Hutus and golden dawn.

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