Really stupid or outrageous

August 24th, 2011  |  Tags:  |  Leave a comment

Some prankster made a fake Google+ page for Paul Krugman, on which he posted “…we would see a bigger boost in spending and hence economic growth if the [Mineral, VA] earthquake had done more damage.” Since this is not even the most ridiculous thing that Krugman has said in the last fortnight, many reasonable people assumed it was authentic, although it was a little too on-the-nose to not arouse any skepticism. The prankster then confessed, while pointing out that the “we need a bigger earthquake” sentiment essentially follows from the actual Krugman’s public statements about disasters and spending.

Krugman apparently heard enough lamentation from his distressed votaries that he had to issue a huffy disavowal of the Google+ page, concluding with some advice: “So if you see me quoted as saying something really stupid or outrageous, and it didn’t come from the Times or some other verifiable site, you should probably assume it was a fake.” Personally, I rarely find myself distraught over potential damage to the public image of an opinion writer. I do wish that he hadn’t used the material conditional, since his statement provides no guidance for how to regard the “really stupid or outrageous things” that Krugman regularly says in his role at the Times and on other “verifiable sites.”

I suppose I will have to continue assuming that his column and blog are components of an elaborate, ongoing practical joke.

Paul Krugman is L. Ron Hubbard

August 15th, 2011  |  Tags:  |  Leave a comment

As far as I can tell, a lot of people on the internet can’t stop uncritically linking to every dripping from Paul Krugman’s noxious pen. Unfortunately, Krugman is a reductive partisan hack who believes that everyone who disagrees with him is a malicious subhuman. He is the sort of columnist who targets every word exclusively to the most blindered of his ideological fellows and abandoned even the pretense of argumentation or persuasion at some point in the distant past. However, Krugman became a lot more interesting last weekend when he admitted that he honestly thinks it would be a good idea to make up a UFO-cult story in order to scare people into accepting increased government stimulus spending:

ZAKARIA: But, even if you were, wouldn’t John Maynard Keynes say that if you could employ people to dig a ditch and then fill it up again, that’s fine. They’re being productively employed, they pay taxes, so maybe the big — maybe Boston’s Big Dig was — was just fine after all?

KRUGMAN: Think about World War II, right? That was not — that was actually negative for social product spending, and yet it brought us out. I mean, partly because you want to put these things together, if we say, look, we could use some inflation. Ken and I are both saying that, which is of course anathema to a lot of people in — in Washington, but is in fact what the basic logic says.

It’s very hard to get inflation in a depressed economy. But if you have a program of government spending plus an expansionary policy by the Fed, you could get that. So if you think about using all of these things together, you could accomplish, you know, a great deal.

I mean, if we — if we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a — a massive buildup to counter the — the space alien threat, and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake there aren’t actually any space aliens —


ROGOFF: So we need Orson Wells is what you’re say?

KRUGMAN: No. That’s a — that’s a — there was a “Twilight Zone” episode like this, which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time we don’t need it — we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.

Krugman’s presuppositions about government stimulus definitely recall “pyramid power” — that is, doing X has generally failed in the past, including quite recently, but that’s just because we didn’t do enough X — but I’m most impressed by how comfortable he is with the idea of making up a lie to justify spending a lot of money to accomplish nothing except the spending of money itself. Many opinion journalists resort to intellectual and actual dishonesty in red-meat columns defending their positions, but most seem to believe their own lines; few go on the record as advocating mendacity. (I also wonder if becoming an enthusiastic advocate of imaginary space war will lead Mr. Krugman to revise his earlier public statements against the actual wars, started by the current and prior US administrations, that Americans are currently fighting against other Earthlings.)

I’m not sure whether or not Krugman’s ultimate vision of phantom alien invaders will involve giant DC-8s without engines, volcanoes full of nukes, or evil galactic overlords, but the idea of making people believe UFO stories in order to take their money does echo L. Ron Hubbard’s profit-driven transition from science-fiction writing to religion-inventing. Of course, ersatz religions based on “space opera” stories and empirically-falsifiable claims only have the potential to bankrupt gullible cultists; the same cannot be said for science-fiction-based public policy.

Financial crisis timeline

June 25th, 2009  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

When I was a kid, my dad made me a timeline on the plastic roller shades in my room. It seemed unbelievably broad to me, and covered among other things Biblical figures and events; major works of literature; the prominence of various kingdoms, dynasties, and tribes; the lifetimes of composers, authors, scientists, and theologians; and so on all the way through to the discovery of the double helix and the race to space. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by timelines: a good timeline can make sense of a vast amount of data and present a forceful argument. So I was delighted to see a timeline covering the recent global financial collapse, courtesy of the New York Fed (pdf link); here’s a small taste:


Each page covers Fed policy actions, market events, and other policy actions in a quarter; each event is hyperlinked to an explanation; and the timeline is updated every month.

(via the Atlantic‘s business blog)

On inflation

October 8th, 2008  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

I’m relieved to see that my local Coca-Cola bottler has an answer for rising soft drink prices.