Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Not quite a Krugman hater

The question of Jeffrey Frankel’s quote being borrowed by Paul Krugman has been resolved. Prof. Krugman acknowledges the borrowing on his blog and Prof. Frankel accepts (as I would) the explanation that one doesn’t attribute a quote when live on Bill Maher.

The latter explanation is the simplest one, and much simpler than the one that I posited. Motives are difficult to measure directly and even more difficult to infer directly, so it would have been better to have offered the quote without comment and wait and see what developed. When I was a professional newspaper reporter (25 years ago) I would have known better. If I didn’t end up with egg on my face, I certainly leaped pretty far in hopes of reaching a conclusion.

However, I was a bit surprised at Prof. Frankel calling me a Krugman-hater, since I don’t hate anyone. I suppose if one were to call Krugman a Bush-hater then I could see how I could be considered a Krugman-hater. However term “hater” is overused if not abused as a rhetorical device in modern politics.

Since “hater” is inaccurate in this case, this is evidence that others don’t know my motivations anymore than I know theirs. Instead, the best policy is to be temperate in one’s words and let the facts speak for themselves.

The facts are that Krugman
  • is a Nobel Laureate (actually, winner of theSveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences);
  • has spent the last eight years as an angry (if not bitter) critic of the Bush administration;
  • wrote a 1996 book to attack former colleagues in international economics; and
  • as even critics of his recent punditry concede, had a profound impact on 20th century economics.
A few undesirable personal traits won’t take away from Krugman’s permanent place in history. Perhaps he will have a happier disposition once Bush is gone and the most progressive president of two generations takes office.

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