Economist Paul Krugman poses before a conversation at the 92nd Street Y on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is so easy to dunk on, well, because he’s Paul Krugman and all. But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean writers shouldn’t do it when the opportunity presents itself.
Or in this case, point it out when someone else is doing the dunking.
His full-blown hatred for Republicans – and President Trump most of all, has led him to say some really stupid things in the past. I’m not really sure what’s worse: his bizarre attempt at differentiating between “brands of anti-Semitism” in the Trump era, his poor track record when it comes to predicting the economy in spite of his supposed economic creds, or him ignorantly griping about the worthiness of President Trump’s Medal of Freedom recipients.
Because he’s an unapologetic basher of all things Republican and all things Trump, Krugman is viewed as an untouchable legend of sorts among the liberal elite, with even mild criticisms of him being considered as heresy of the worst kind.
Knowing that, I was more than pleasantly surprised to see Atlantic magazine contributing writer Sebastian Mallaby take Krugman to the woodshed over his extreme Trump Derangement Syndrome tendencies as part of a book review in which he otherwise lauded Krugman’s storied history:
Krugman’s blunt approach has powerful attractions. For one thing, it delights his liberal readers, and may inspire some of them to advocate for better policy. For another, his willingness to ascribe motive may reveal the real drivers of political struggles…. But the Krugmanite approach also has drawbacks. By branding Republicans as “bad people,” he reduces the chances of swaying them. By sweeping all Republicans into the same basket—often without specifying whether he means party leaders or the rank and file—Krugman may obscure more of reality than he manages to expose.
His answer to these objections is characteristically forthright. The way he sees things, sweeping “Republicans,” the “right,” or sometimes “conservatives” into one basket isn’t a mistake, because he believes that nearly all Republicans belong in there. Insulting large categories of opponents has no cost; all are more or less dishonest, in hock to special interests, and therefore impossible to influence by means of reasoned argument. “If you’re having a real, good-faith debate, impugning the other side’s motives is a bad thing,” Krugman explains at one point. “If you’re debating bad-faith opponents, acknowledging their motives is just a matter of being honest about what’s going on.” By ignoring evidence and lying, Republicans are signaling that they cannot be reasoned with. In Krugman’s summation,“the mendacity is the message.”
The moral of Mallaby’s story is, hilariously enough, that Krugman is a borderline genius who is right about most things. But his tendency to view all Republicans as pond scum simply because Orange Man Bad detracts from the arguments he tries to make and fails to bring more people to the table:
In short, Krugman is suffering from an especially public case of what’s come to be known as Trump Derangement Syndrome. Appalled by the Republican Party’s most bigoted leaders, whose rise he traces at least as far back as the George W. Bush administration, he has allowed himself to believe that nearly all Republicans are corrupt and evil, and therefore that reasoned argument is futile. “The modern G.O.P. doesn’t do policy analysis,” he pronounces. Yet the reality is subtler. Republicans are more open to reason than Krugman allows.
Will Krugman listen to Mallaby’s advice? Don’t count on it. After all, Kruggie’s new book is titled Arguing with Zombies. But even if he did listen to Mallaby and started treating Republicans with even a basic level of respect, it wouldn’t last long because liberals like Paul Krugman view even legitimate, well-grounded disagreements as a hallmark of stupid, intellectually lazy people who simply “don’t get it.” Those people are then typically written off as, well, zombies.
In a sense, Krugman has become the type of person he claims to abhor. This isn’t uncommon in left-wing circles, but because Krugman’s case is rather extreme it is worth pointing out.
(Hat tip: Newsbusters)