Monday, October 20, 2003

The evolution of Paul Krugman

Good review of Paul Krugman's The Great Unraveling by Russell Baker in the current New York Review Of Books..

I haven't read the book, but I've been following Krugman's columns since the early days of his tenure at the times. It was obvious from the beginning that here was a writer who was different from the usual pundits. He didn't follow the rules of propriety that that group had established for itself. And it was clear that, in the beginning, Krugman didn't even realize he was breaking the rules. There was a certain quaint naiveté in Krugman's early columns where he would clearly lay out the problems with Bush's economic proposals with the expectation that others in the press would take the ball he had passed them and run in for the touchdown. When they consistently failed to do so Krugman's eyes were opened to the full extent of the corruption within establishment journalism.

As Baker says:

Few are equipped to challenge the mathematics and economic theory underlying the Bush budget, and though Krugman may scold them for not doing their homework, doing so would involve prodigious feats of reeducation. Even then it's doubtful that many would be willing to attack a president with charges of deceit, as Krugman has done. A sense of propriety, of dignity, sits heavily on the "commentariat," as Krugman calls it. In the code language of the trade, a colleague like Krugman is said to be "shrill" or "strident," words commonly used to caution a colleague that he is being crude and undignified.

In the higher levels of journalism there is a curious uneasiness about dealing candidly with the quite natural relationship between various money interests and government. All politics is to a great extent about who gets the lion's share of the money at a government's disposal, and a public that realized this might be less insouciant about elections than today's American nonvoter.

Journalism is reluctant, however, to make much of an effort to find out who will benefit if a given candidate wins, and who will lose out. Instead of providing this valuable information, the media tend to explain politics in terms of high-sounding ideological piffle about a "conservatism" and a "liberalism" which have very little pertinence to anything of consequence to the voter. The result is to deaden public interest in politics by diverting the mind from the fact that there is real money at stake.

It seems slightly scandalous that Krugman has persisted in noting that the present administration has been moving the lion's share of the money to an array of corporate interests distinguished by the greed of their CEOs, an indifference toward their workers, and boardroom conviction that it is the welfare state that is ruining the country. Krugman has been strident. He has been shrill. He has lowered the dignity of the commentariat. How refreshing.

I agree.


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6:50 PM  

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