The left substitutes insults for reasoned argument
Since Krugman and I began debating fiscal and monetary policy back in 2009, I have become increasingly alarmed by the way he abuses his power. Last week, I resolved to speak out in a three-article series, published squarely in the heart of the liberal blogosphere, the Huffington Post.
As historians are trained to do, I based my argument on the archives. By quoting his past writings, I showed, first, that Krugman’s repeated claims to have been “right about everything” in his economic commentary are false. Although (like many others) he identified a housing bubble in 2006, he did not foresee the financial chain reaction that would fuel a global crisis. Having failed to predict the US crisis, he then incorrectly predicted the imminent disintegration of Europe’s monetary union, publishing more than 20 statements on that subject in 2011 and 2012. He has never admitted these errors; on the contrary, he has retrospectively exaggerated his own prescience.
Second, Krugman’s claim that a vastly larger fiscal stimulus would have generated a more rapid economic recovery in the US depends entirely on conjecture. But the macroeconomic model on which he bases his claim can hardly be called reliable, given its manifest failures to predict either the crisis or the euro’s survival. Moreover, at least one of his pre-crisis columns flatly contradicts his view today that current – or even higher – levels of federal debt carry no risk whatsoever. So he has no right to claim, as he has, “a stunning victory” in “an epic intellectual debate.”
Finally – and most important – even if Krugman had been “right about everything,” there would still be no justification for the numerous crude and often personal attacks he has made on those who disagree with him. Words like “cockroach,” “delusional,” “derp,” “dope,” “fool,” “knave,” “mendacious idiot,” and “zombie” have no place in civilized debate. I consider myself lucky that he has called me only a “poseur,” a “whiner,” “inane” – and, last week, a “troll.”
I have often pointed out the substitution of insults for reasoned argument in Krugman's work as well as many others on the left. They really do not want to see a marketplace for ideas other than their own. Ferguson is right to tackle the problem on the liberal's turf with one of their heroes.
Far from engaging in Holmes’s free trade in ideas, Krugman has been the intellectual equivalent of a robber baron, exploiting his power to the point of driving decent people away from the public sphere – particularly younger scholars, who understandably dread a “takedown” by the “Invincible Krugtron.”