Taking Krugman et al. Down a Notch or Six

There are few things I more enjoy watching in the realm of politics than economist-turned–particularly-arrogant-and-smarmy-pundit Paul Krugman being put in his place. Admittedly, this is something akin to shooting fish in a barrel, and erstwhile RedState poster Pejman Yousefzadeh has turned this into an art form. Nevertheless, it is something that must be done, because if there’s anything worse than a fool who fancies himself smart, its a fool who fancies himself smart who is read by millions.

So, today, the folks at National Review, specifically Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Kevin Williamson, have performed us all a service of breaking down Krugman and his ilk’s arguments and exposing them for what they are: frantic attempts to cover up their own side’s failures. After noting that Krugman has made the risible assertion that the current economic distress is proof that we are living in a Republican economy, Holtz-Eakin provides a needed corrective, noting just what a Republican set of policies would look like:

Republican spending policies would include permanent reforms to secure the social safety net for the future generations and reverse the threat posed by federal red ink over the next decade. It would not pursue a dangerous policy of defense cuts that promise a hollowing out the U.S. national-security capabilities. And it would include reforms to use more wisely the funding for core functions of government, such as infrastructure, basic research, and education.

And the best part of the article, a short one that definitely merits reading, is when he explains just how we aren’t in a Republican economy. He starts by saying:

Republican polices would not include the mind-numbing array of “timely, targeted, and temporary” Democratic policy failures during the two years that Obama had a rubber-stamp Congress.

Democratic policy failures which, it should be noted, are most certainly not temporary and the other aspects can be contested (let Rex Nutting know that). He then notes:

Republican policies would not include regular threats to raise taxes, an enormous expansion of the regulatory state, handing auto companies to unions, creating two new bureaucracies (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Independent Payment Advisory Board) exempted from congressional funding review and oversight, attempting to block the creation of new aerospace jobs in South Carolina, killing the Keystone pipeline . . . the list goes on.

Before we move on, I’d like to point out that it’s articles like this that underscore the importance of electing a conservative congress. It is not enough to work for people with merely a (R) next to their names. Though he’s not running for Congress, the fight over Mike Leavitt’s presence in the Romney campaign is one example of this. Let’s help people like Dan Liljenquist, Ted Cruz, Richard Mourdock, Deb Fischer, Chauncey Goss, Sam Anaestad, and so many others.

That digression aside, I’d like to turn to Kevin Williamson’s post now. Hit the jump for more.

Mr. Williamson’s post deals more with the appeal to emotion, specifically anger and rage. After looking at Mr. Krugman’s latest book End This Depression Now! (the fact that he uses an exclamation point in a supposedly serious policy work should be enough of an indicator that he’s descended from economic thinker to pundit) and his intellectual ally Dr. Tony Judt’s Ill Fares the Land. He notes:

What struck me most about the two books, and about Professor Krugman’s recent journalism, is the constant exhortation to anger. End This Depression Now! begins and ends with such exhortation, and, writing in the New York Times, Professor Krugman is forever going on about the necessity of being “angry at the right people.” Among those people he believes it is right to be angry at are academic economists who do not share his views, and who therefore must be, in his analysis, acting out of bad faith in order to pursue ends that are “cruel and wasteful.” Professor Judt likewise fills his little book with demands that we be enraged at the alleged malefactors he identifies, and similar demands that we regard post offices and train stations with sucrotic sentimentality.

As Williamson notes, though, there is a common metanarrative running through these works that has nothing to do with strictly economic matters: the importance of following these reactionary Leftist prescriptions without thinking for yourself. For Krugman, he notes:

One minute’s thinking would reveal that the story is much more complicated than Professor Krugman suggests, but thinking is not on his agenda, at least so far as his New York Times work is concerned. And he is not alone in that: Have a look at William Cohan’s “Don’t let go of the anger” for further evidence.

And with Judt, we see a similar tendency:

But Professor Judt’s book is not an invitation to think; it is an invitation to feel. Like Rachel Maddow, Professor Judt has very warm feelings about large-scale public-works projects such as the Hoover Dam, which, while indeed majestic, was obsolete before it ever came on line and generates about one-third the electricity of a typical nuclear power plant. Our aesthetic appreciation of such enterprises should not stop us from asking the relevant questions: Does it work? It is the best use of our scarce resources? I admire New Deal–era post offices and Paul Cret’s fascist architectural vibe as much as the next guy, but we should probably fire a great number of the people who work in those buildings, because they do not produce much of value.

What Williamson has gotten at here is one of the biggest problems we face politically and philosophically today: the triumph of “feel” over “think”, of emotion over thought, of the subjective over the objective. It’s a problem that merits discussion on its own elsewhere, but nevertheless, it’s something to think about. The Right, as Williamson correctly notes, is not immune to this, but it is the Left where it typically pervades. Unfortunately, it’s a change of focus that all too often benefits the latter as well. After all, who cares about serious, reasoned approaches that work when someone is supposedly “disadvantaged” or “hurt” (claims that typically don’t stand up upon further analysis, but who cares?). His closing remarks are something we ought to take to heart, as they are exactly the kind of approach our country needs right now:

We need clear thinking and cold-eyed analysis, not wishful thinking or blinkered emotionalism. Getting righteously angry is an exercise in self-gratification, a fruitless indulgence.

Economists like Krugman and Judt ought to know better than to produce what they have given us, but if they are angry, then I think it’s a sign the Right is doing something…well, right.