I just finished reading “the Conscience of a Liberal” by Paul Krugman. I am trying to remember what drew me to the book, but it was likely a curiosity of how a true confessed liberal, Nobel Prize winning at that, rationalized or justified his views.
I try to avoid the words liberal and conservative in my blog writings simply because the words galvanize views before they are ever expressed. In spite of his academic credentials Krugman’s commentaries are often so vitriolic that they stoop to juvenile expression. I recall a reference to Republicans as the party of stupidity because of their support for off shore drilling. This is hardly seems the expression of an intelligent inquest.
Like all bias it colors your filtering of information. For Bush the Iraq war was a “war of choice”, yet Lyndon Johnson was “sucked” into the Vietnam quagmire. What war was not a war of choice; surrender is always an option.
Yet some of his analysis just seems blinded by his commitment to liberal ideology. One of his main explanations of why the American people would support a party so aligned against their interests is that Republicans astutely exploited racist fears. Krugman can find enough facts to show that 50 years ago some Republican operatives did politically exploit southern recoil against Johnson’s Great Society and Civil Rights programs, but does that explain their views 5o years later?
He discards free market thinkers such as Milton Freedman or supply side economists like Arthur Laffer as lacking any support from ‘credible’ economists. Really?
I found little sound support for his call for widespread government programs. His only complaint about the New Deal is that Roosevelt did not go far enough. He supports unionism and claims that unions created higher wages in the auto and steel industries without any effect on those industries?
Really? Two thirds of the domestic auto industry are bankrupt wards of the state and the unions bear no responsibility? The old heavily unionized steel industry leaders such as Bethlehem, LTV, and Republic are gone- closed or consolidated into an Indian owned company, Mittal. The largest American steel producer, Nucor is highly profitable and noticeably non union.
Even programs such as FDIC that promoted security for depositors also promoted excessive risk taking. Social Security still faces the challenge of a declining birthrate and life extending medical progress, which did not happen under a nationalized health plan.
Before claiming success these programs need to be seen completing the long term cycle especially under changing demographics.
The foundation of Krugman’s liberalism is the desire for equality over growth and freedom; the faith in central planning over individual initiative and choice; and the belief that government and academic elites can solve all of our problems without any social costs.
Intelligence does not overcome bias, it too often calcifies it. Intelligence does not stop the filtering of inconvenient facts and thought. Like ideologues from either end of the spectrum, Krugman can select irrefutable facts and draw the precisely wrong conclusion.
Our political debate is about finding that place on a continuum between equality and freedom that assures a generous amount of both. We seek a balance of social welfare and economic growth that depend on each other.
It is foolish regardless of academic credentials to pretend that a huge welfare state does not damage the golden goose that funds it.