09 Jan 2016

Outsourcing: E. Harding Discovers Krugman Kontradiction on Reich That Makes You Cringe

Krugman 40 Comments

Frequent Free Advice commentator (who is no slave to the demands of courtesy, I should say) E. Harding posted this link to his analysis of Krugman’s recent book review of Robert Reich. It is absolutely mind-blowing to see how this guy rolls. Look at how Krugman talks now about his thoughts of Reich’s earlier book (from the 1990s), compared to how he talked about Reich back then. I think Krugman really still hasn’t understood that the Internet changes the rules; you can’t go Kontradicting yourself so blatantly when there’s an electronic record.

I’m tempted to do an excerpt, but then you might not click the link and see the various quotes juxtaposed. You really need to go to the link to see how bad it is.

40 Responses to “Outsourcing: E. Harding Discovers Krugman Kontradiction on Reich That Makes You Cringe”

  1. Rick Hull says:

    There is a theory that at some point in the last 5 or 10 years, Krugman’s ultra progressive wife took over the writing of his columns. I have no idea if this is true or even plausible. But it sure holds explanatory power.

    • Yancey Ward says:

      There could be something to this. Reading those quotes really does sound like the writing of two different people. Were I in Krugman’s shoes actually writing today, I would acknowledge (would feel it a requirement just to evade embarrassment) what I thought and wrote about the subject in the 90s. There is nothing wrong with having evolved in one’s thinking, but it really is an embarrassment to not acknowledge that it evolved, especially given the ability of anyone to call you out on it.

      • Rick Hull says:

        Frankly, the Krugman Retrospective would be amazing. I would pay for it.

        • Rick Hull says:

          Er, I mean Krugman’s Retrospective.

          • Warren says:

            Wouldn’t it be the Krugmans’ Retrospective?

  2. Gene Callahan says:

    The straight-forward explanation would be, “Well, Krugman’s thinking has evolved over time.”

    Isn’t that a good thing? I mean, really, if someone is seriously thinking and studying, we should expect that what they thought 25 years ago will be different than what they think today. And if it is not, that is a sign of intellectual stagnation, not of any virtue!

    • Major.Freedom says:

      You are talking about Krugman and not you, right?

      There is a problem with the idea that changing one’s mind in economics is inherently a virtue: Economics is not a positivist science. In positivist science, the method calls for changing one’s mind on the basis of experience only. That if experience changes, then so should one’s mind. This is considered a virtue within the assumptions of positivism.

      With economics on the other hand, the basis for both changing one’s mind is a priori logic. That means changing one’s mind is called for not when the logical structure of the mind changes, but when one becomes aware of an outright error in one’s logical deductions.

      This is not inherently a problem, because we all make mistakes. However, the reason why it is sometimes justified to call out a contradiction in an economist’s writings, is when the reasons they use to change their mind are reasons they themselves either do not admit, or recognize, but reasons they themselves chastise others for being wrong (in the economist’s opinion).

      The question we have to ask then is “Why did Krugman change his mind?”

      Did economic laws change? Obviously not, and I highly doubt Krugman would say that was the reason he changed his mind.

      Was there something in the last 25 years of experience that changed that obligates us to change our minds? If so, then the only thing that has changed is history, not economic laws. But if it is only history that changed, this gives an outlet for certain economists to pretend that they were talking about history the whole time.

      And this is where positivists tend to want to have their name and eat it too. If one was “wrong”, then one is virtuous for having changed one’s mind because something in the world has since called for it. If one was “right”, then one is virtuous for not having changed one’s mind, not because nothing changed in the world, but because one found an inner consistent truth within the changing flux of the world.

      That is Krugman’s rhetorical scheme, at least as far as his writings show.

    • Tel says:

      When the facts change I go looking for better facts, preferably the sort of facts that don’t go changing all over the place.

      • Major.Freedom says:

        It should also be mentioned that Krugman’s initial review of Reich’s book was accusatory in the sense of contradicting Econ101, promoting “classic fallacies” as if they were new insights, and garbled statistics. All of these criticisms logically and temporally PREDATE the initial publication of the book.

        How could 25 years of history be justification for Krugman to change his mind here? What, has Econ101 changed? Have the “classic fallacies” been overturned? Has statistics somehow caught up with Reich and improved to become what used to be considered “garbled”?

        Obviously it was not “the facts” that changed Krugman’s mind.

    • Rick Hull says:

      Yes, it’s a good thing that Krugman’s thinking is free to change. But one would hopefully attempt to be consistent with one’s principles, or else cast aside the old and defend the new. I’m not saying Krugman hasn’t done it, but I haven’t seen it either. What are the principles involved, and which are abandoned?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Gene, I must confess that your comment annoys me. I can’t imagine the view you must have of me, to write something like that.

      Did you actually click the link? Krugman in the 1990s said that Reich’s book demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of Econ 101. Now, he’s telling us that it was a good book.

      So it would be unlikely that something changed in the interim to make Krugman reassess that original conclusion.

      However, it’s worse than that, Gene. Even if something had changed in the interim, so that what Krugman thought was the work of an ignoramus who didn’t even bother learning the basics before throwing it out the window, was now suddenly a pathbreaking book, then if Krugman had any decency he would tell us today that his views had changed. Instead, today he takes credit for thinking along those lines back when Reich published his book in the 1990s. I.e. you would have thought from Krugman’s discussion today, that he had been a fan of Reich in the 1990s. You would have no idea that he made fun of Reich back then.

      And more generally, *that* is why I get so upset with Krugman excoriating people who voice opinions that come out of his own textbook. He is calling people knaves and fools for holding views that Krugman had 15 years ago.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        To give a different example, Gene, I sure hope any regular reader of my blog wouldn’t be astonished to learn that I used to be an atheist. I go out of my way to say, “I understand why they think this is a good argument–I did too back in college–but now I think…”

        I’m not saying I’m perfect about it, but if I’m criticizing an idea I used to hold, simple decency compels me to be gentle about it.

      • LK says:

        (1) Bob Murphy:

        “So it would be unlikely that something changed in the interim to make Krugman reassess that original conclusion.”

        hahaha.. Spoken by a man who sounds, even after all these years, like he knows NOTHING — bloody NOTHING — about Krugman’s intellectual development, of which I’ve just spoken in the comment below.

        (2) Bob Murphy:
        ” then if Krugman had any decency he would tell us today that his views had changed”

        “I really am gravitating toward a Keynes-Fisher-Minsky view of macro, although of the three I’d much rather read Keynes.”
        Paul Krugman, “Actually existing Minsky,” May 19, 2009, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/actually-existing-minsky/

        Yep. Obviously Krugman has never changed his mind on anything and never made the statement above.

        • E. Harding says:

          Again, LK, you show no sign of having read my post, and this has nothing to do with post-Keynesianism.

          • LK says:

            False. Krugman has changed his views since the early 1990s, e.g., on NAFTA debt deflation, minimum wage. His interest in certain PK work is certainly relevant here.

            • E. Harding says:

              My response stands even more solidly. All I can do is to repeat it.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          LK I really hope you know full well how much of a non sequitur this is. If you were literally Krugman’s defense attorney then your strategy of sowing confusion would make sense.

          Krugman wrote a book review of Reich’s latest book, in which he leads people to think that he (Krugman) thought highly of Reich’s book from the 1990s. He gives no hint that there were any problems with it at that time. But when you go read what Krugman said in the 1990s about the book, you see he accuses Reich of not even knowing what comparative advantage is. He picks Reich as an example of someone that the public might like, but that real economists know is a fool.

          And to defend against that, you’re bringing up minimum wage studies?

          • Bala says:

            Bob, It’s LK, for god’s sake!

    • LK says:

      “The straight-forward explanation would be, “Well, Krugman’s thinking has evolved over time.”

      100% correct.

      In general terms, Murphy ignores the fact that Krugman has moved from being a standard New Keynesian to a Keynesian with some interest in non-neoclassical Post Keynesian theory. Krugman has shown some intellectual development in the course of his career, coming to different opinions from what he held earlier on some instances.

      As Krugman says himself:

      “I really am gravitating toward a Keynes-Fisher-Minsky view of macro, although of the three I’d much rather read Keynes.”
      Paul Krugman, “Actually existing Minsky,” May 19, 2009, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/19/actually-existing-minsky/

      Murphy might take the time to seriously engage with actual Post Keynesian (PK) theory and ask, say, the question whether Krugman’s shift to some elements of PK theory conflicts — intellectually speaking — with his other neoclassical New Keynesian ideas, a move that would add something to the debate.

      But, no, instead, it’s been years and years of the some tired “Krugman Kontradiction” poppycock, normally devoid of any great intellectual merit.

      • E. Harding says:

        LK, this has nothing to do with post-Keynesianism. Why do you ignore everything in my post, showing no sign of reading it?

      • Bob Roddis says:

        This all just follows the natural progression over time of the conformist left and the people and groups whom Krugman now finds it profitable to please.

        Krugman used to be a boring technocratic economist. Then he married his young Maoist wife.

        In the seventies, the left was cheering on Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot while Keynesianism and the new funny money regime were causing the US economy to crater. Then Reagan mysteriously won the election and the left had a short period of self-reflection. They decided they would never ever again admit they were wrong about anything or admit that their opponents were anything but evil racists. And they have stuck to it.

        So today Krugman finds it profitable to please his young wife and the hard left while, just like the left, never admitting to having ever been wrong in the past.

        And all the while, the civilization-hating left is even driving the haughty Lord Keynes bonkers.


        • LK says:

          ” Then he married his young Maoist wife.”

          lol… Bob “I-don’t-know-what-a-market-clearing-price-is” Roddis speaks..

          And what is the evidence the person in question is a Maoist? Telepathy? Magic?

          Sounds like a bizarre slander to me.

          • Bob Roddis says:

            So says the great Lord “I-still-don’t-understand-economic-calculation” Keynes.

          • Bob Roddis says:

            Robin Wells (born 1959 – so she’s not so young after all) from September 2009:

            And now our diva moment, with Sarah Palin — in full victimhood throttle — charging on Friday that an “Obama death panel” could deny health care and pass a death sentence on her Down syndrome child. Welcome to the lunatic asylum. Oh, I’m sorry…that’s being unfair to lunatics…..

            In the end, for better or for worse, whether he likes it or not, Obama is joined in a battle against the forces of anger, hate and grievance. A choice not to engage them on a moral level is an abdication. They will not go away, and they will stalk him the rest of his presidency unless he faces them and conquers them. President Obama, you need to go down into your soul and find those keys.


          • Tel says:

            Hey LK, not to go over old bones too much, but can you just remind me what the definition of “market clearing” really is… for once and for all, just to settle this.

            I need a method to recognize market clearing when I see it. Don’t want to make any mistakes.

            • Bob Roddis says:

              Not to beat a dead horse into Jell-O or anything, but I believe I said that I didn’t like to USE the term because it allowed people like LK to claim that Austrians ALWAYS insist that firms will ALWAYS slash prices during the bust instead of cutting production or holding back inventory until prices again rise. And that it suggests a level of perfect foresight which is unrealistic.

              I also said that during boom times, the economy would be full of market clearing prices which are also artificially induced by funny money and will prove to be unsustainable. I seem to remember the latter claim causing LK to call for my immediate execution. Or at least being banned from the comments. Or something.

              But now that I’m turning 65 in March, I don’t have the stamina I used to have for these things so now I will go and take a nap.

              • Tel says:

                Yeah, I’m aware that “market clearing” is an imprecise term that means pretty much what the writer wants it to mean, and often not what the reader expects.

                A bit like there’s now 101 unique and fascinating definitions of “austerity”.

      • guest says:

        “Murphy might take the time to seriously engage … and ask, say, the question whether Krugman’s shift … conflicts … with his other neoclassical New Keynesian ideas, a move that would add something to the debate.”

        Murphy took the time to seriously engage Krugman, himself, though …

  3. Matt M says:

    “I think Krugman really still hasn’t understood that the Internet changes the rules; you can’t go Kontradicting yourself so blatantly when there’s an electronic record.”

    Except that he can.

    Does anyone care other than a small circle of Austrians whose analysis will be immediately dismissed as “they just don’t like Krugman because they hate the poor”?

    • Tel says:

      Interesting theory.

      Used to be a big effort walking over to the library, finding that volume from the periodical (or worse, microfilm) just to check up on hypocrisy.

      Now it’s about 100th as much effort, you can sit in your favourite lounge, put your feet up with a cocktail, poke around one a search engine and also check up on hypocrisy. The barrier to entry for being a critical thinker is so much lower.

      Then again, the effort for everything else is also that much lower… so people have reset their threshold of what they are willing to do… end result, the number of critical thinkers remains about the same as always.

  4. Jim says:

    This is from “Art Deco” in the comments section of the article linked:

    “Robert Murphy? […] He’s a purveyor of fringe economics derived from the Austrian school and has no academic posting. Scott Sumner does.”

    Bob just lost all of his debates with Sumner. 🙂

  5. GabbyD says:


    isnt the one krugman piece about academic vs “literary” writing? and one specifically about “national advantage” (i.e. how thats wrong) and then the other about a specific dispute about corporate downsizing?

    i agree that if he agrees he you, he is complementary; and if he disagrees with you (on the point he is emphasizing), he is quite dismissive.

    but isnt that how reviews should be written? they should be clear pieces with a solid, central point to be made?

    isnt it true that good book reivews should NOT take the form: “i disagree with X, but this point has Y, which is good”?

    isnt it true that good book reviews should be: “if you are interested about X, this is a great/amazing/perfect/insert your own term here if you like it” OR “… this is a poorly made, bad, etc.

    note that his concern about inequality is consistent. in the downsizing article he also writes why arguments about specifics matters on income inequality: “Does this distinction matter? It does if you are trying to set any sort of policy priorities. Should we, as some in the administration want, focus our attention on preserving the jobs of well-paid employees at big corporations? Should we pressure those companies to stop announcing layoffs? Should we use the tax system to penalize companies that fire workers and reward those that do not? Or, instead, should we fight tooth and nail to preserve and extend programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit that help the working poor?”

    this concern over inequality is consistent because he (and reich) are both political leftists. but their methods, background and training are different — those are what the previous disagreements are about.

    do you agree?

    • E. Harding says:

      Sure -but why does New Krugman imply that these disagreements never existed? And I think good book reviews should be of the form “I disagree with X, but this point has Y, which is good”?

  6. GabbyD says:

    @E. Harding

    As an example of advice on convincing writing for a book review: http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/book-reviews/

    “But the reader does not learn some key information expected from a review: the author’s argument, the student’s appraisal of the book and its argument, and whether or not the student would recommend the book. As a critical assessment, a book review should focus on opinions, not facts and details. ”

    Note the stress on having an argument and a central opinion, and a strong recommendation on either whether the book is “good” or not.

    Note that it isnt a recitation of facts. “Fairness” isnt part of it! Thats not what a book review is about.

    • E. Harding says:

      GabbyD, don’t you agree it is not right and proper for Krugman to completely change his stated opinion about Reich’s Work of Nations without giving even an inkling of an indication of this in his mention of it in his review of Reich’s 2015 book?

      • E. Harding says:

        @E. Harding

        I would argue that in your quoted sections of “then”, he isnt really talking about the work of nations book per se.

        He is preoccupied by the “culture of writing” (section “two cultures”), and the notion of comparative advantage.

        Neither of which is about Income Inequality.

        in the “Now” quotes, he is writing on Income Inequality, and NOT about academic writing culture or comparative advantage.

        here is where my argument about writing book reviews comes in. there is a clear consensus that writing a good review requires a good, clear, central theme and opinion.

        In the “NOW”, his theme is clear.

        in the “THEN, his them is clear, BUT DIFFERENT.

        if you think that good writing includes combining themes where he should have written “i think he is wrong about comparative advantage, but right about income inequality” in the”NOW” section, then that is your opinion — but i am convinced that this is NOT the consensus opinion on what makes a for good book review.

        in addtion, if you wanted to hear about his opinion on reich’s thoughts on comparative advantage, or “mainstream economics”, then the internet has it. he doesnt need to write it down again.

        BUT if you wanted to read about his take on reich’s thoughts on income inequality, then this is the review that touches on that, and is new writing.

        • E. Harding says:

          Gabby, do you think Krugman thinks the Work of Nations was a good or bad book for its time?

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