Friday, January 21, 2005

Krugman Cannot Write

A charming man courts a woman, telling her that he's a wealthy independent businessman. Just after the wedding,however, she learns that he has been cooking the books, several employees have accused him of sexual harassment and his company is about to file for bankruptcy. She accuses him of deception. "The accountability moment is behind us,"he replies.

Last week President Bush declared that the election was the"accountability moment" for the war in Iraq - the voters saw it his way, and that's that. But Mr. Bush didn't level with the voters during the campaign and doesn't deserve anyone's future trust.

And so begins a recent column by NYT's editorialist Paul Krugman, owner of some of the most valuable real estate in the daily press. He goes on to say something to the effect that, while Bush didn't necessarily lie, he mislead about WMD blah blah blah. His evidence for misleading - some post-election poll citing lack of knowledge on the part of many with regard to the true facts on what wasn't found in Iraq. And this is Bush's fault, apparently because he didn't wear a sign saying there were no WMDs, even though the media said nothing different for a year.

Now forget for a moment the idiocy of this meme - that Bush lied (or mislead) about WMDs. If he were the moral reprobate these guys assume, he would have planted the WMDs. Forget the fact that practically every Western intelligence agency thought Saddam had them. Forget the fact that the Clinton administration not only claimed he had them but also said they knew exactly where they were. Forget the fact that Saddam never proved he got rid of them. Forget the fact that he clearly had maintained the capacity to mass produce them quickly (perhaps once the sanctions were lifted). Forget the fact that he had billions of dollars to fund eventual production due to our "allies" and the UN taking bribes from him in the Oil for Food Scandal.

Forget all of that, and let's ask ourselves one question about the NYT and Paul Krugman - how can such a poor and uninteresting writer be given such a platform? The first paragraph is clearly meant to lay an analogy. But why bother laying such a vapid and unentertaining analogy? Is it meant to be humorous? Does it add anything to our understanding of his point? And when he talks about sexual harrassment, wouldn't he anticipate that we'd be confused about which president he is talking about? As far as moments of accountability go - at least the President had one - where is Krugman's as a op-ed columnist? Can't the NYT find a respected academic economist willing to make up facts who can at least crack a decent joke while he spins a yarn?


Blogger Professor Vic said...

The Times chose Krugman for two and maybe three reasons. First, he is a very-well respected economist and winner of the John Bates-Clark medal given every two years to the best economist under 40. Anyone who would argue his overall qualifications as an economist is a fool. (Of course, one can always debate his specific contributions as in any science.)

Second, Krugman wrote several very good books for non-economists in the 1980s and 1990s. Unlike the natural sciences where there are many good writers who present stuff for the general public (like Carl Sagan and Steven Jay Gould), economics until recently has been sadly lacking. How many non-economists have or ever will (or ever should) read anything by Prescott, for example? The Age of Diminshed Expectations, Peddling Prosperity, and The Accidental Theorist are all excellent books on economics that many non-economists would find enjoyable.

Finally, Krugman is a fairly liberal economist which meshes with the generally liberal slant of the NYT editorial page. Mind you, the NYT also has William Safire and David Brooks as columnists, so there is an attempt to provide some balance.

That being said, I will admit that I find Krugman's articles about economics far better than his columns on Iraq. I don't know what makes him think that as an economist that he has anything useful to say about topics so far off of his field of expertise.

Next thing you know, some yahoo will be writing (and disseminating for public consumption) literary reviews, articles about Iraq and abortion, and criticism of other writers' styles and expect people to think that he knows what he is talking about just because he has a Ph.D. in economics.

8:23 AM  

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