Sunday, January 19, 2014

Paul Krugman, Amoral Thinker

No thinking being sets his moral compass by the musings of Paul Krugman.

As you know, Krugman’s basic moral principle is that he is always right and that the right wing is always wrong.

Thus, Krugman has been challenged to explain away the manifest failure of the Socialist French president Francois Hollande. Not to worry. He has discovered that Hollande’s mind has become infected with right wing thoughts— especially thoughts about fiscal austerity— and this explains his failure.

Austerity means not spending enough. And yet, the word “spend” is also Victorian slang for male sexual release. It follows logically that Krugman sees austerity as equivalent to sexual repression. His solution to all economic problems: more, better sex... that is, spending.

If spending is the answer it doesn't matter with whom the French president is enjoying it. It doesn't matter that he is not enjoying it with his live-in paramour.

In many ways this all seems unworthy of a Nobel Prize-winning economist. Yet, Krugman did recently venture into President Hollande’s current imbroglio.

In his words:

But now he [Hollande] has done something truly scandalous.

I am not, of course, talking about his alleged affair with an actress, which, even if true, is neither surprising (hey, it’s France) nor disturbing.

We will not quibble about how a man who is not married could be having an affair. In the Anglosphere Valerie Trierweiler would be Hollande's common-law wife, but I do not know whether the concept exists in French law.

Since sexual release is an unalloyed good, Krugman is neither surprised nor disturbed about the affair. In that he is hardly alone. Our world has become so sensitive to the dignity of women that no one else much cares about Mme Trierweiler either.

As it happened, when Hollande's affair was announced in the press, Trierweiler took what is now called an overdose of pills. That is a polite way of saying that she attempted suicide.

To Krugman and to most commentators this is certainly nothing to be disturbed about.

Apparently, Trierweiler found the public humiliation very surprising and extremely disturbing. Note well, during the first few days of her internment, she was not allowed a visit by President Hollande… perhaps because she found his presence so disturbing that her physicians feared that the stress would provoke a relapse. then again, rumor had it that  the sensitive Hollande wanted to visit her in the hospital in order to get her to sign an agreement to end their relationship.

Allow me to underscore the point that, according to most commentators, Krugman included, a woman’s honor and dignity is of absolutely no account—especially when placed next to a man’s need for sexual release.

One can only wonder where anyone got that idea. Could it be a vestige of a time when an American First Lady rushed to defend her husband when he was discovered having some sexual release with an intern?

If said First Lady had no concern for her dignity as a woman, why should anyone else?

And recall this. Remember when Newt Gingrich was denounced by feminists far and wide for having gone to his wife’s hospital room,just after she had been operated on for cancer, in order to deliver her divorce papers.

I cannot vouch for the story’s veracity, but still the gesture was considered cold and heartless. Now, when the president of France wants to go to his common law wife’s hospital room while she is recovering from a suicide attempt that his actions provoked, in order, perhaps, as the story has it today, to deliver her walking papers, no one finds it surprising or disturbing.

For Krugman, the remarks about French sexual practices are a mere taste tease, what the French call an amuse bouche. The thrust of Krugman’s column is that profligate spending is the solution to an economic depression.

What historical period fits the Krugmanian bill here? Why, those halcyon days in the 1930s.

Krugman would be horrified if anyone called for a return to the bad old 1950s, but he happily extols the greatness of the New Deal and other policies that, to his mind, cured the Great Depression.

By 1936, seven years into the Great Depression, much of Europe was growing rapidly, with real G.D.P. per capita steadily reaching new highs. By contrast, European real G.D.P. per capita today is still well below its 2007 peak — and rising slowly at best.

Doing worse than you did in the Great Depression is, one might say, a remarkable achievement. How did the Europeans pull it off? Well, in the 1930s most European countries eventually abandoned economic orthodoxy: They went off the gold standard; they stopped trying to balance their budgets; and some of them began large military buildups that had the side effect of providing economic stimulus. The result was a strong recovery from 1933 onward.

Nothing quite like the Third Reich to goose up a recovery. Just think of all the jobs created by the construction and manning of concentration. It was big government in action.

And yet, whatever made anyone think that those large military buildups would not inevitably lead to a worldwide catastrophe. Many historians believe that World War II, not the New Deal, really ended the Great Depression. If the world needed a monstrosity of a war to end the Depression, doesn't that tell us that the economy recovery was less than stellar. Keep in mind, after eight years of FDR the unemployment rate in America was still around 14%.

Is Krugman right about the recovery? Unfortunately, he is not.

In a prior post I quoted a summary of the results of a study performed by two UCLA economists:

After scrutinizing Roosevelt's record for four years, Harold L. Cole and Lee E. Ohanian conclude in a new study that New Deal policies signed into law 71 years ago thwarted economic recovery for seven long years.

"Why the Great Depression lasted so long has always been a great mystery, and because we never really knew the reason, we have always worried whether we would have another 10- to 15-year economic slump," said Ohanian, vice chair of UCLA's Department of Economics. "We found that a relapse isn't likely unless lawmakers gum up a recovery with ill-conceived stimulus policies."

In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

"President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services," said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. "So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies."


Anonymous said...

"Austerity means not spending enough." Perfect capture, Stuart.

The statist wants more, more, more. Because nothing serves as evidence that their ideas don't work, but only that they haven't gone far enough. Just wait, you'll love it...

As for the moral transgressions they hold against right wingers (in true Alinsky fashion), consider virtue and morals as archaic impediments to their own righteous actions. The people they use and ruin are collateral damage along the route to the moral utopia they so unselfishly want for the rest of us... regardless of our consent (a moral concept).

This from the crowd that says "whose morals?" about every deviant human failing imaginable. Misanthropic narcissism.

Paul Krugman is an ass. He is also a Princeton professor, Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist, which should tell you plenty about the high standards of those organizations. And Charlie Rose is his confessor.

And I love it when Sam L. calls him "Paulie the Beard." It's perfect!


Sam L. said...

No, Tip, it's Paullie "The Beard" Krugman. All those old-time gangsters had names like that. But everything else you said, I agree with.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the error. The moniker is hilarious.