Krugman's Tales of Morality

Email Print



One of the
things one supposedly learns in the academic world is that while
the world has its black-and-white issues, there also are many shades
of gray. Now, I am not speaking so much of “situational ethics”
or even what some have called “the New Morality” (which is not particularly
moral nor new), but rather those areas where people may disagree
on what is the right thing to do in certain things.

Another thing
we supposedly learn in that world is that one does not argue legitimately
by setting up straw men and then demolishing them. One has to be
careful in setting up generalities that simply have no meaning as
the foundation of one’s arguments.

Over the years,
I have been fortunate to have met a number of well-known economists,
including a number who have won the Nobel Prize in economics. Furthermore,
I have known a lot of their friends and have had the opportunity
to sit with some of them and have long conversations, as well as
see them interact with others.

A number of
them have had columns and articles in the popular media, including
the late Milton Friedman and Gary Becker, and I read many of them.
I cannot recall one time when either of them ever drew the distinction
that they were holy and moral and anyone who disagreed with them
was pure evil. In fact, many of these Nobel winners have demonstrated
a real graciousness toward those in other camps.

And then there
is Paul Krugman, who really draws the line in today’s column, “A
Tale of Two Moralities
.” In this column, we find there are two
kinds of people in our society.

The first group
he describes as such:

One side
of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise
economy, but one in which society's winners are taxed to pay for
a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in
tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It's only right, this
side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.

These are the
good people, as they want wonderful things for those who are less
fortunate. Unfortunately, he continues, there also are the Bad People
in our midst:

The other
side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn,
and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts
to theft. That's what lies behind the modern right's fondness
for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see
taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.

How do these
people differ? Krugman explains:

There's no
middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform,
with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as
fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have
an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care.
The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault
on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.

He goes on
to explain that the Good People are Democrats, but the Bad People
are Republicans. The Good People are kind, generous (at least with
other people’s money), and make good neighbors.

The Bad People,
on the other hand, are violent, greedy, selfish, and are so out-of-control
that there really is no reasoning with them, as they reject any
attempt at reconciliation. These Bad People have no socially or
morally redeeming values, and Krugman promises to show how they
also spread a bad social theology:

But that
was then. Today's G.O.P. sees much of what the modern federal
government does as illegitimate; today's Democratic Party does
not. When people talk about partisan differences, they often seem
to be implying that these differences are petty, matters that
could be resolved with a bit of good will. But what we're talking
about here is a fundamental disagreement about the proper role
of government.

Regular readers
know which side of that divide I'm on. In future columns I will
no doubt spend a lot of time pointing out the hypocrisy and logical
fallacies of the "I earned it and I have the right to keep
it" crowd. And I'll also have a lot to say about how far
we really are from being a society of equal opportunity, in which
success depends solely on one's own efforts.

I only can
wonder how Krugman deals with students at Princeton who are not
in his moral corner. After all, he is publicly declaring that their
views are immoral and illegitimate and have no place in decent society.
After having seen how much of the faculty at Duke University dealt
with the false allegations in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case of
four years ago, Krugman does have a model to follow, and the faculty
members who engaged in the worst conduct at Duke also are people
in Krugman’s political corner.

Of course,
only the Bad People make false allegations. Only the Bad People
engage in violence. (There were no Obama
supporters outside a polling place
making threats. That is just
your imagination.)

The first is
that the Tucson shooter was not a political person, and what happened
is not necessarily something that falls into the category of political
violence. There is no evidence that Jared Loughner knew the identity
of the federal judge, and I don’t think one murders nine-year-old
girls for political reason.

Krugman, however,
has ignored the facts because they don’t fit his narrative. But
there is even a bigger issue that Krugman ignores and that is the
violence committed by government agents. I never have seen Krugman
speak on one incident in which those wearing government costumes
have engaged in unwarranted violent behavior against innocent people.

(Will Grigg
has documented
government violence
against innocents — including outright murder
— numerous times. I guess that the very act of pointing out that
fact, according to Krugman, makes Grigg a violent person.)

The closest
Krugman has come to dealing with that issue was about 10 years ago
(I have not found the column but remember reading it) when he wrote
that there was no abuse by the IRS of taxpayers. There was no government
violence, and if there was, well those on the receiving end deserved
it. In other words, according to Paul Krugman, even if the government
engages in unwarranted violence, as long as Democrats are in charge,
we are to take it no matter what.

Notice that
what he is saying is that if one does not accept the ObamaCare bill
in toto, then one wants other Americans to die for lack of
medical care. To question a bill that runs 2,500 pages with much
of the contents being open-ended (to be “interpreted” by the bureaucracies)
is to be evil and violent, not to mention utterly selfish.

if one questions the extremely “liberal” use of the Commerce Clause
in the Constitution, one is a violence-loving purveyor of evil.
In fact, given his views of American society and capitalism before
the New Deal, it would seem that he believes that life was pure
hell until FDR came along with all of his alphabet-soup programs.

Krugman’s logic
runs into another problem: it seems that, according to
a study by Arthur Brooks
, those who Krugman claims are greedy
— conservatives — tend to
give away a larger portion of their income
than do liberals.
Of course, Krugman believes that the ONLY acceptable kind of “giving”
comes through taxation and transfer payments. There can be NO argument

is another point I believe needs to be made: most Republicans believe
in and support the Welfare State. In fact, like a lot of Democrats,
they support the Welfare-Warfare State and never have attempted
any serious repeal of welfare (or warfare) measures when they were
in power. Thus, Krugman has set up the straw man Republican when,
in reality, there are no Republicans in power (except for Ron Paul)
that really fit that description.

And, I only
can guess that Krugman, who has
smeared Ron Paul
before, would claim that Rep. Paul is someone
who advocates mindless political violence and murder. After all,
he does believe that much of the modern state is illegitimate, so
A MUST follow B. Why? Because Krugman says so.

My guess is
that Krugman sees nothing polarizing about his rhetoric. People
who agree with him are the Good People, and everyone else is a Bad
Person. And that is the “wisdom” that comes from the august Princeton
economics faculty these days.

15, 2011

L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute
. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit
his blog.

Best of William Anderson

Email Print
  • LRC Blog

  • Podcasts