Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Left Out: A Critique of Paul Krugman Based on a Comprehensive Account of His New York Times Columns, 1997 through 2006

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We have made a complete review of Krugman’s New York Times columns 1997 through 2006—in all, 654 columns. The pattern of policy positions and arguments do not square with his purported concern for general prosperity and the interests of the poor. Some of the evidence lies in statements made. But the more important evidence lies in patterns of statements not made. Because Krugman assumes the role of addressing the most important things, because our account is comprehensive, and because the omissions are flagrant, we may treat omissions as evidence of Krugman’s ideological character and sensibilities. Krugman is best interpreted as a committed social democrat and Democratic partisan. Our main contention is that his social-democratic bent sometimes trumps people’s interests, notably poor people’s interests. The tension surfaces in what Krugman has written about immigration and the threat it poses to the US welfare state. But the tension is found in his writings on several topics, and, importantly, in omissions in his writings. Krugman has only rarely come out against extant government interventions, even ones that expert economists seem to agree are bad, especially for the poor. If Krugman would admit that, to some extent, he is ready to sacrifice poor people’s interests for the sake of advancing social-democratic values, then he has to admit conflict between relevant values and give up posturing to the effect that he has been a voice of unbiased research and has stood above any ideological interpretation of public affairs.