For those who follow economic commentary, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is known as the most prominent advocate of big government solutions to almost any economic malady, real or perceived. Whatever bad, historically discredited economic concept exists, from "stimulus" spending to currency devaluation to tax rate increases to reduce the deficits caused by all the government spending he supports, Krugman is always there to defend each as public intellectualism’s walking, talking embodiment of that which won’t, and hasn’t worked.
The conspiratorially minded among us might say that Krugman is a Republican mole, placed inside the upper reaches of American liberalism’s foremost cathedral to destroy the movement from within, but if true, Republicans themselves wouldn’t so frequently pursue Krugman-lite policies (the George W. Bush years, most notably) on the way to economic hardship. Instead, it should be said that Krugman is a thoroughgoing statist, one who actually believes all that he does with great conviction despite an historical record that would logically give any rational human being pause.
But last week it’s fair to say that Krugman truly stepped over the line. While his droolings are always worth an uneasy laugh combined with horror that some actually take him seriously, his assertion that there’s a racial element behind the drive to achieve a strong, stable dollar was just too much. Krugman should be ashamed, though that ascribes to him a level of self-awareness that he apparently doesn’t possess.
In suggesting that stable-dollar advocates are racists eager to "seek votes from Southerners angered by the end of legal segegration" as a way of returning to "the antebellum era," Krugman unsheathed the proverbial race card from the deck’s bottom, and this is despicable even by his already gutter-level standards.
For background, during Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony before Congress last week, Rep. Paul Ryan made the perfectly reasonable and economically tautological assertion that "There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its people than to debase its currency." From Ryan’s utterly harmless, though very correct statement, Krugman sickeningly derived racist overtones; his argument being that Abraham Lincoln devalued the dollar during the Civil War, and with Republicans (according to Krugman) no longer embracing Lincoln, any criticism of devaluationist policy is not just anti-Lincoln, but also racist for Lincoln’s Civil War having sped the end of wrongheaded secessionist policies in the U.S.
To bolster his shockingly obtuse line of reasoning, Krugman cited one of the witnesses Rep. Ron Paul called before his subcommittee to discuss the Fed, Loyola University professor and Ludwig von Mises Institute senior fellow Thomas DiLorenzo. According to Krugman, DiLorenzo’s not-so-glowing account of Lincoln in his book Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed to Know About Dishonest Abe, signals that he is a racist, and by extension so are the stable-dollar Republicans seeking his testimony on the Fed.
About DiLorenzo, while I’ve not read his book, I’m somewhat familiar with the more libertarian criticisms of Lincoln, and none have to do with race. That Krugman would suggest otherwise is the height of dishonesty, and quite simply wrong.
Libertarian objections to Lincoln and the Civil War have to do with the tariffs imposed by northern manufacturing interests on imports that made it difficult for southern agricultural interests to export their goods. One can’t export without importing, and the libertarian view is that absent the tariffs, the war is less likely.
And while the Civil War was also of course about slavery, individuals such as Ron Paul certainly don’t decry it for ending slavery; rather they correctly point out that slavery was already dying around the world without shots being fired. How unfortunate then that the U.S. needed to suffer the death and destruction of war to rid itself of a tragic institution that would have disappeared soon enough based on its own, anti-human contradictions.