When Paul Krugman dies, he’ll be primarily remembered for three things: He won the 2008 Nobel Prize in economics; he has been one of the world’s most-read and most-influential political pundits; and he said with total seriousness (watch the video) that a way to fix America’s economy would be for the government to spend a ton of money preparing for a nonexistent alien invasion because at least that would get people working.RELATED: The Illogic of Paul Krugman
I’ll save you the trouble of writing in with the riposte, “Where’s your Nobel Prize?” The Nobel committee is not infallible (the guy who invented the lobotomy and declared it “always safe” got a Nobel), but even if it was, Krugman’s award was not for political philosophy but for an arcane point of technical analysis, and even if it were for political philosophy, many economists with the opposite philosophy (Milton Friedman, Gary Becker, Friedrich Hayek) have also won the Nobel.
Krugman is a most unusual economist. Others may measure their words, issue caveats, acknowledge that the research isn’t conclusive, admit that their biases influence their reading of facts. Not Krugman. Krugman is remarkable for his freewheeling writing style, which frequently leads to lively metaphors (“invisible bond-market vigilantes,” “confidence fairy”). He is often dismissive, misleading and tendentious. He changes the subject, ignores inconvenient evidence and plays playground bully to people he sees as ideological enemies (a list longer than Nixon’s). He blasts away at others’ work without even providing the basic courtesy of a link to what he’s talking about, which is a disservice to readers who might like to review the other side of the argument to decide for themselves.
In his new book “End This Depression Now!” (W. W. Norton & Company), he compares Ben Bernanke to the moronic Chance the Gardener in “Being There” — and Bernanke is the man who hired Krugman at Princeton.
Krugman “writes with more vitriol than I find attractive,” writes Harvard economist and fellow Times columnist Greg Mankiw. He treats anyone who disagrees as “a mendacious idiot,” writes George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok. “Krugman should stop bullying people,” wrote columnist Michael Kinsley.
In short, to use the kind of colorful language the great Nobelist favors, Paul Krugman is a jackass.
Take his recent, bizarre feud with economist Veronique de Rugy. Whenever she cites a number, he wrote recently, “You can pretty much assume that it’s wrong.” Rugy writes from a pro-free-market perspective. Krugman’s principal job may be to throw his readers the liberal equivalent of red meat (organic, sustainable, fair-trade soy with nontoxic pink dye?). But is this the professional courtesy one academic has for a colleague in the field?