Paul Krugman

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Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman is an American economist and Nobel laureate. He is also an op-ed columnist and blogger for the New York Times. Krugman is well known for following the theories of John Maynard Keynes and continually advocates for more inflation and government intervention in the economy. Krugman defines inflation as a measurement of prices and not the quantity of money[1][2][3] and argues that printing money can help an economy in a depression.[4]

For these and other views is Krugman frequently criticized by Austrian economists.[citation needed] A blog created by William L. Anderson is devoted to "Analysis and criticism of America's most prominent public intellectual and champion of Keynesian economics."[5] In October 2010, Krugman was challenged to a debate over Austrian vs. Keynesian business cycle theory by economist Robert Murphy.

Broken window fallacy

The broken-window fallacy was seen in a column by Princeton University professor Paul Krugman after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center:[6] "Ghastly as it may seem to say this, the terror attack -- like the original day of infamy, which brought an end to the Great Depression -- could even do some economic good."[7]

In 1998, Krugman said: "During phases of weak growth there are always those who say that lower interest rates will not help. They overlook the fact that low interest rates act through several channels. For instance, more housing is built, which expands the building sector. You must ask the opposite question: why in the world shouldn't you lower interest rates?" To the question "...because that would only promote inflation instead of growth?" he responded "There is no danger of that!"[8]

In March, 2011, after the Fukushima disaster he claimed, "And yes, this does mean that the nuclear catastrophe could end up being expansionary, if not for Japan then at least for the world as a whole. If this sounds crazy, well, liquidity-trap economics is like that — remember, World War II ended the Great Depression."[9]

In June, 2011, Paul Krugman declared that a new war would solve the nation’s looming economic problems: "If we suddenly had a threat of war and a military build up, you’d be amazed how fast the economy would recover."[10]

Krugman on Austrian Economics

In 1998, Krugman wrote that he regarded the "Austrian theory" of the business cycle "about as worthy of serious study as the phlogiston theory of fire".[11] In 2011, he conceded that (in his understanding of) the Austrian explanation both is theoretically possible and actually happens in the real world:[12]

So what is the essence of this Austrian story? Basically, it says that what we call an economic boom is actually something like China's disastrous Great Leap Forward, which led to a temporary surge in consumption but only at the expense of degradation of the country's underlying productive capacity. And the unemployment that follows is a result of that degradation: there's simply nothing useful for the unemployed workers to do. I like this story, and there are probably other cases besides China 1958–1961 to which it applies. But what reason do we have to think that it has anything to do with the business cycles we actually see in market economies?[13]

Krugman in Support of the 2000’s US Housing Bubble

Recommending the Federal Reserve lower interest rates to create a housing bubble:

“During phases of weak growth there are always those who say that lower interest rates will not help. They overlook the fact that low interest rates act through several channels. For instance, more housing is built, which expands the building sector. You must ask the opposite question: why in the world shouldn’t you lower interest rates?” [14]
I've always favored the let-bygones-be-bygones view over the crime-and-punishment view. That is, I've always believed that a speculative bubble need not lead to a recession, as long as interest rates are cut quickly enough to stimulate alternative investments. But I had to face the fact that speculative bubbles usually are followed by recessions. My excuse has been that this was because the policy makers moved too slowly -- that central banks were typically too slow to cut interest rates in the face of a burst bubble, giving the downturn time to build up a lot of momentum. That was why I, like many others, was frustrated at the smallish cut at the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting: I was pretty sure that Alan Greenspan had the tools to prevent a disastrous recession, but worried that he might be getting behind the curve.

However, let's give credit where credit is due: Mr. Greenspan has cut rates since then. And while some of us may have been urging him to move even faster, the Fed's four interest-rate cuts since the slowdown became apparent represent an unusually aggressive response by historical standards. It's still not clear that Mr. Greenspan has caught up with the curve -- let's have at least one more rate cut, please -- but the interest-rate cuts do, cross your fingers, seem to be having an effect.

If we succeed in avoiding recession, this will mark a big win for let-bygones-be-bygones, and a big loss for crime-and-punishment. And that will be very good news not just for this business cycle, but for business cycles to come. [15]
KRUGMAN: "I think frankly it’s got to be — business investment is not going to be the driving force in this recovery. It has to come from things like housing, things that have not been (UNINTELLIGIBLE)."

DOBBS: "We see, Paul, housing at near record levels, we see automobile purchases near record levels. The consumer is still very much in this economy. Can he or she — or I should say he and she, can they bring back this economy?"

KRUGMAN: "Well, as far as the arithmetic goes, yes, it is possible. Will the Fed cut interest rates enough? Will long-term rates fall enough to get the consumer, get the housing sector there in time? We don’t know" [16]
Still, as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers says, you don't have to refill a flat tire through the puncture. To reflate the economy, the Fed doesn't have to restore business investment; any kind of increase in demand will do. How might demand increase? Consumers, who already have low savings and high debt, probably can't contribute much. But housing, which is highly sensitive to interest rates, could help lead a recovery… But there has been a peculiar disconnect between Fed policy and the financial variables that affect housing and trade. Housing demand depends on long-term rather than short-term interest rates -- and though the Fed has cut short rates from 6.5 to 3.75 percent since the beginning of the year, the 10-year rate is slightly higher than it was on Jan. 1... Sooner or later, of course, investors will realize that 2001 isn't 1998. When they do, mortgage rates and the dollar will come way down, and the conditions for a recovery led by housing and exports will be in place. [17]
KRUGMAN: "I’m a little depressed. You know, inventories, probably that’s over, the inventory slump. But you look at the things that could drive a recovery, business investment, nothing happening. Housing, long-term rates haven’t fallen enough to produce a boom there. The trade balance is going to get worst before it gets better because the dollar is still very strong. It’s not a happy picture." [18]
Post-terror nerves aside, what mainly ails the U.S. economy is too much of a good thing. During the bubble years businesses overspent on capital equipment; the resulting overhang of excess capacity is a drag on investment, and hence a drag on the economy as a whole. In time this overhang will be worked off. Meanwhile, economic policy should encourage other spending to offset the temporary slump in business investment. Low interest rates, which promote spending on housing and other durable goods, are the main answer. [19]
The good news about the U.S. economy is that it fell into recession, but it didn't fall off a cliff. Most of the credit probably goes to the dogged optimism of American consumers, but the Fed's dramatic interest rate cuts helped keep housing strong even as business investment plunged. [20]
The basic point is that the recession of 2001 wasn't a typical postwar slump, brought on when an inflation-fighting Fed raises interest rates and easily ended by a snapback in housing and consumer spending when the Fed brings rates back down again. This was a prewar-style recession, a morning after brought on by irrational exuberance. To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble. [21]

Opposing the Federal Reserve raising interest rates:

One argument I’ve been hearing a lot lately runs as follows: “Low interest rates got us into this mess, so it’s crazy to think that low interest rates are the solution.”

Now, I don’t actually buy the first premise: I blame Greenspan for ignoring warnings about subprime and housing, but I still think keeping the Fed funds rate at 1% for a long time was justified by the economy’s weakness, which lasted until late 2003 or even beyond. But it’s true that we had an orgy of over-borrowing in the housing market. So the question remains: does an effort to encourage even more borrowing make sense?

Yes. [22]
Oh, and on a nonpolitical note: even before Friday's grim report on jobs, I was puzzled by Mr. Greenspan's eagerness to start raising interest rates. Now I don't understand his policy at all.[23]

Crediting the housing bubble for the mid-2000’s economic recovery:

In fact, I’d say that the sources of the economy’s expansion from 2003 to 2007 were, in order, the housing bubble, the war, and — very much in third place — tax cuts. [24]
What finally created a convincing recovery was the housing boom. But that turned into a bubble, which has burst big time. [25]
Neeraj Mehra, Amritsar, India: Mr. Greenspan has done a disservice to the nation by creating the housing boom. As a layman-observer, that’s the lingering thought I’ve had. Your article reaffirms it.

The question I have is this: Did he do the right thing — acting morally by engineering a housing boom, more as a bridge loan, until something else showed up at the horizon to shore up the economy — because he didn’t have a choice, or did he undertake a path of mere political expediency? And, that’s a question that’s nagging me for a while. Would appreciate it if you could shed some light.

Paul Krugman: As Paul McCulley of PIMCO remarked when the tech boom crashed, Greenspan needed to create a housing bubble to replace the technology bubble. So within limits he may have done the right thing. But by late 2004 he should have seen the danger signs and warned against what was happening; such a warning could have taken the place of rising interest rates. He didn’t, and he left a terrible mess for Ben Bernanke.[26]
As Mr. McCulley predicted, interest rate cuts led to soaring home prices, which led in turn not just to a construction boom but to high consumer spending, because homeowners used mortgage refinancing to go deeper into debt. All of this created jobs to make up for those lost when the stock bubble burst. Now the question is what can replace the housing bubble.[27]


Give me a break... If you actually read that [August 2, 2002] article, actually read it... I was joking. I was saying that, I was talking about, the difficulty of responding purely with monetary policy to the kind of slump that we were then experiencing. And it's a measure, I might say, of the intellectual bankruptcy of a large part of this debate, that the best they can do is keep on claiming that I was actually advocating the creation of a housing bubble. I obviously wasn't doing that.[28][29]
One of the funny aspects of being a somewhat, um, forceful writer is that I’m regularly accused of all sorts of villainy. I was personally responsible for the demise of Enron; my nonexistent son worked for Hillary; etc.. The latest seems to be that I called for the creation of a housing bubble — in fact, the bubble is my fault! The claim seems to be based on this piece. Guys, read it again. It wasn’t a piece of policy advocacy, it was just economic analysis. What I said was that the only way the Fed could get traction would be if it could inflate a housing bubble. And that’s just what happened.[30]



The Economist cites critics of Krugman stating that "his relentless partisanship is getting in the way of his argument". In addition, a website (titled "Lying in Ponds") that tracks partisanship among public intellectuals rated Krugman second in the overall partisan slant of his columns, behind only Ann Coulter.[31] As Richard Posner and economist Mark J. Perry note, the site, which uses careful statistical analysis to make assessments political partisanship, has ranked Paul Krugman the number 1 or number 2 most biased every single year from 2002-2008.[32][33]

The Economist magazine supported the finding, noting the vast majority of Krugman's columns feature attacks on Republicans and almost none criticize Democrats, making him "a sort of ivory-tower folk-hero of the American left—a thinking person's Michael Moore" and that "a glance through his past columns reveals a growing tendency to attribute all the world's ills to George Bush."[31] And speaking on Krugman's recent "prophecy of doom" regarding the 2010 election, the magazine calls it a "baseless partisan freakout".[34]

A study published in the peer-reviewed Econ Journal Watch examined statements from 17 economists from 1981 through 2009, and gauged the consistency of their stances on deficit spending and reduction during Republican and Democratic administrations. According to the study, Krugman was the only economist of the 17 to "significantly" change his stance on the federal budget deficit for partisan reasons.[35]

This finding of inconsistency was supported when The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) showed that Krugman contradicted his own findings in order to criticize Republican policy. When Republican Senator Jon Kyl stated that unemployment relief doesn't create new jobs and in fact is a disincentive for unemployed individuals to seek new work, Krugman called it a "bizarre point of view" and stated that "What Democrats believe is what textbook economics says [...] But that's not how Republicans see it". James Taranto of the WSJ reproduced a passage from a textbook called Macroeconomics which states: "The drawback to [unemployment benefits] is that it reduces a worker's incentive to quickly find a new job." The authors of the textbook are Paul Krugman and his wife.[36] This led John Hinderaker of the conservative Claremont Institute to proclaim: "only the existence of Frank Rich prevents Krugman from being the world’s worst columnist."[37]

In 2008, economist Peter Boettke noted: "[Over the years] Krugman's work devolved from science to ideology and finally to political partisanship" and that Krugman "has used his platform as an economist and as a columnist for the New York Times for his Democratic partisanship purposes."[38]

Author and federal appeals court judge Richard Posner called Krugman "an unabashed Democratic partisan who often goes overboard in his hatred of the Republians." [sic][32]

Economist Donald Boudreaux has stated that Krugman does "a disservice to non-'liberal' scholars as well as to scholarship generally" by asserting that serious thinking is done only by Krugman himself and other liberals.[39]

Liberal journalists also openly point out Krugman's obvious political bias: New York Magazine called Krugman "the leading exponent of a kind of liberal purism" that he is "not altogether comfortable with, but it is [a role] he has sought."[40] Liberal journalist and author Michael Tomasky in The New York Review of Books stated "Many liberals would name Paul Krugman of The New York Times as perhaps the most consistent and courageous—and unapologetic—liberal partisan in American journalism."[41]

Liberal historian Michael Kazin has stated Krugman’s account of the right succumbed to the Marxist flaw of false consciousness: "Unlike what Krugman says, conservatism is not some kind of smoke screen for another agenda."[40]


Krugman has garnered a reputation for contradicting himself on many occasions. When documenting such inconsistencies several writers have made references to such an occurrence being commonplace: "It's not newsworthy when Paul Krugman contradicts himself."[42] "Not that you needed any more evidence that New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is a flip-flopping charlatan..."[43] "This just in: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is a raging hypocrite. You'll be shocked to find out, I'm sure."[44]

In addition to the instance reported in the WSJ (see above), a single article published in the conservative online magazine The American Thinker documents Krugman making contradictory statements in a wide variety of topics. He is documented as stating that when deficits are high interest rates are low, and when governments run up a deficit, interest rates rise. He argued that higher national debt and spending were bad for people early in their careers, as they would have to pay for it later in life, and nearly twenty-five years later, he argues that the national debt is not a problem, as it never needs to be paid off. Krugman argued it is not the debt that matters, but rather the debt-to-GDP ratio. But in an open letter to Alan Greenspan he asserted, " obviously realize that the ratio of debt to G.D.P. is a highly misleading number." He has argued that Social Security is sustainable and unsustainable, opposed government-run health care before supporting government-run health care, and opposed the bailout of Fannie Mae before congratulating the government for the bailout of Fannie Mae.[45]

Krugman has stated labor unions and higher wages cause unemployment, as well as stating labor unions create a stable middle class, and lower wages have a contractionary effect on the economy (which is characterized in part by unemployment). He has argued that governments do not cause recessions and are not responsible for business cycles, but he also blames the Bush administration for the current recession. Krugman claimed that nothing the government has done has had an impact on the economy, and states that government actions are like using a water pistol to shoot an elephant -- but he also claims that "big government" saved the economy. He declared that workers' fears of losing jobs to workers in China and India due to globalization aren't irrational, when he earlier stated that those who blamed the global economy for the loss of jobs were "silly."[45]

Conservative blogger and political commentator Michelle Malkin noted that in April 2011, Krugman assailed entitlement reform advocates, lamenting that "the fervor with which Washington types call for raising eligibility ages is a ‘tell’: it shows how disconnected they are from the way the other half lives (and dies)" and called life expectancy "more and more a class-related issue." But in 1996 he called similar proposals (such as raising the age of eligibility for federal entitlements) "sensible".[43]

In 2007, Krugman berated then-Senator Barack Obama for worrying about the future of Social Security, stating Obama had been misled by "decades of scare-mongering about Social Security’s future from conservative ideologues." Economist and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Greg Mankiw responded by stating that "Paul's interpretation seems to be based on either a faulty memory or an especially inclusive definition of what constitutes a conservative ideologue", pointing out that not only did Democratic President Bill Clinton voice similar concerns, but that he was under advisement of well-known economist and non-conservative Edward Gramlich, whom Krugman had in the past praised as being particularly prescient.[46] In addition, less than a month prior, Mankiw had previously pointed out Krugman's contradiction on Social Security when he quoted from an interview in which Krugman stated it is "one of the best" federal government programs in terms of funding, and that it's not for certain the program has a problem. However, as Mankiw shows, Krugman himself stated ten years earlier that crisis loomed ahead when the baby boomers would start to retire around year 2010.[47]

In an open letter to The New York Times Donald Boudreaux pointed out that Krugman suggested trade with low-wage countries poses real problems for high-wage America, despite years earlier penning a paper stating that wages are determined by worker productivity.[48]

Columnist Tom Bevan asked in 2009 how Krugman reconciles a call for economic stimulus while at the same time arguing that additional environmental regulations and taxes are needed to avert the "utter catastrophe", outlining that stricter environmental policies such as carbon taxes, capping emissions, and additional regulations come at a cost to the economy.[49] While Krugman normally dismisses claims that debt reduces growth, he criticized the Bush tax cuts in 2005 for increasing the deficit.[4]

Economist Robert Murphy has documented so many contradictions made by Krugman that he has coined the term "Krugman Kontradiction" or "Klassic Krugman".[42] [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] [55] [55]

False claims

Columnist Richard Baehr has written several pieces documenting false and contradictory statements by Krugman. In August 2005, Baehr published a series of articles detailing Krugman's continuous misrepresentation of facts surrounding the 2000 Presidential election and votes cast in Florida.[56][57] (A gaffe that was also noted by Michelle Malkin[58][59][60], Donald Luskin[61][62][63][64], Mickey Kaus[65], and Patterico[66][67], among others.) Baehr closed the series stating: "The continuous rise of the internet has enabled critics to hyperlink source material proving Krugman's lack of integrity. Krugman simply could not get away with his lies if he were required to post hyperlinks [...] Why is the New York Times still employing a serial liar in its op ed pages?"[68]

In 2010 Baehr detailed Krugman's August 23 column on extending the Bush tax cuts as being "not merely misleading; it is an outright and deliberate fabrication."[69]

In 2003 Krugman falsely accused conservatives of embracing the lump of labour fallacy, when the paper he cited did not commit the error.[31]

James D. Agresti documented Krugman claiming total government spending had fallen under the Obama administration, then changing his claim to say it had remained flat, both of which were shown to be false according to the data published by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.[70] This led economist Robert Murphy to ask: "Is Krugman just lying now?"[71]

Economist Robert Higgs noted that in a telephone news conference Krugman commented the Late-2000s recession "in fact" resembles the Great Depression. Higgs mentions various measures, including the unemployment rate, GDP decline, commercial bank failures, and others, all which empirically contradict Krugman's claim.[72]


The Economist notes that in addition to his obvious partisanism, "even [Krugman's] economics is sometimes stretched." He used game theory to argue that President Bush was probably encouraging North Korea to become a more dangerous nuclear power. The magazine notes that while "this probably did not convince most game theorists", it still in effect gives lay readers "the illusion that Mr Krugman's perfectly respectable personal political beliefs can somehow be derived empirically from economic theory." Krugman is also said to have embraced the concept of the free lunch—"even though as an economist he should know better."[31]

Economist and former United States Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers has stated Krugman has a tendency to favor more extreme policy recommendations because "it’s much more interesting than agreement when you’re involved in commenting on rather than making policy."[40]

Krugman's contradictions and alleged poor economic reasoning have led to much attention, particularly in the blogosphere and the economics community. "[Krugman] has made a habit of distortion [...] Several website [sic] have sprung up to deconstruct each Krugman column,and others respond to specific errors, which are routine."[56] Economist Bill Anderson maintains a website dedicated solely to documenting Krugman's errors and inconsistencies, called "Krugman-in-Wonderland".[73] U.S. House Republican candidate Jeff Semon founded a similar website titled "" to document Krugman's inaccuracies.[74]

Calling him a "doctor of (bad) economics", Sheldon Richman has pointed out inconsistencies and conflicting notions in Krugman's prescription for international trade and domestic social safety nets.[75]

In 2002 Bill Anderson documented Krugman's notion that health care is the only industry in which improvements in knowledge and the development and acquisition of capital drive up costs, not reduce them, as laws of economics dictate. Anderson says Krugman's assessment "provides ample proof that one can be called an 'economist,' yet not know much about economics."[76]

Economist and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors Greg Mankiw stated he was left scratching his head when Krugman claimed a Tobin tax on foreign exchange trades is possible because "modern trading is a highly centralized affair", with a majority of transactions settled at a single London-based institution. Mankiw points out that if taxes made transacting in London even slightly more expensive, companies could easily move elsewhere, thus making the tax useless, and Krugman's claim null.[77]

Investor and businessman Jim Rogers said of Krugman "He doesn't know anything about economics. He's an idiot."[78]

Nobel Prize

Upon Krugman's award of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, many in the economic community voiced disapproval. Peter Boettke stated "the Swedes just made perhaps the worst decision in the history of the prize today in naming Paul Krugman the 2008 award winner [...] today I would say is a sad day for economics, not a day to be celebrated."[79] Economist Bill Anderson deemed the announcement indicative "that outright political partisanship is not a deterrent to winning."[80] Russell Roberts of George Mason University called it "just another reminder that those of us who believe in liberty are in for a long time in the intellectual wilderness."[81] Robert Higgs stated Krugman’s selection made a travesty of the prize and constitutes "an insult to the few excellent economists [...] who have received the prize in the past." Higgs wrote: "For economists who would like the Nobel Prize to mean something, today is a very sad day."[72]

In a 2010 video blog, investment broker and financial-economic commentator Peter Schiff stated "if they ever took away Nobel Prizes for something that shows a complete lack of understanding of economics, certainly Paul Krugman would be the first candidate where the commission asked for their Nobel Prize back."[82]

Praised by Austrians

While noting the many differences with Paul Krugman, James Miller has pointed out that many bloggers who promote the Austrian point of view commend Krugman's older, lesser-known book, Pop Internationalism. The book is a collection of 13 essays highlighting the benefits of free trade and showing the fallacies of protectionism. After all, Krugman won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to "new trade theory," not for his continuing calls for massive stimulus spending and raising taxes on the rich, nor for accusing conservatives of being monsters bent on impoverishing the whole country.

Krugman's basic premise throughout the book is that free and globalized trade is not something a wealthy country such as the United States should fear, but rather something it should embrace. Protectionist fears of free trade such as "massive unemployment" and "trade deficits" are unjustified according to Krugman, because:

what drives trade is comparative rather than absolute advantage. Maintaining productivity growth and technological progress is extremely important; but it is important for its own sake, not because it is necessary to keep up with international competition.

Krugman points out that the idea of a country adopting an industrial policy to help certain "high-value" industries to be competitive in the world economy is superfluous. "Why," Krugman asks, "weren't private markets already doing their job?" He goes on to state that "the productivity of the average American worker is determined by a complex array of factors, most of them unreachable by any government policy."

To top off his embrace of market efficiency over government policy, he even goes on to acknowledge that government intervention to improve competitiveness can ultimately lead to "misallocations of resources." That is not a far cry from the inflation-induced "malinvestments" that the likes of Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard have warned about for the past century.

Throughout Pop Internationalism, Paul Krugman makes a great case for how free trade and the global economy raise the living standards of both wealthy and impoverished nations. Despite the book's flaws, writes Miller, Krugman does a great job at dismissing unfounded fears about free trade.[83]


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