Two columnists and those new clothes: We’ve been called away from our sprawling campus on a mission of national import.
We expect to finish our current, award-wining series on Monday. Tomorrow, we expect to post about a recent, very rare error by Kevin Drum.
For today, we recommended the new column by Paul Krugman.
Krugman has written this column many times. We congratulate him for doing so, although we very much doubt it will help.
For today, we offer this reading assignment: Analyze this passage from Krugman as a version of The Emperor’s New Clothes:
KRUGMAN (4/27/12): None of this should come as news, since the failure of austerity policies to deliver as promised has long been obvious. Yet European leaders spent years in denial, insisting that their policies would start working any day now, and celebrating supposed triumphs on the flimsiest of evidence. Notably, the long-suffering (literally) Irish have been hailed as a success story not once but twice, in early 2010 and again in the fall of 2011. Each time the supposed success turned out to be a mirage; three years into its austerity program, Ireland has yet to show any sign of real recovery from a slump that has driven the unemployment rate to almost 15 percent.An embarrassing problem was obvious. But everyone was in denial.
However, something has changed in the past few weeks. Several events—the collapse of the Dutch government over proposed austerity measures, the strong showing of the vaguely anti-austerity François Hollande in the first round of France’s presidential election, and an economic report showing that Britain is doing worse in the current slump than it did in the 1930s—seem to have finally broken through the wall of denial. Suddenly, everyone is admitting that austerity isn’t working.
Finally, something broke through the wall of denial. Suddenly, everyone is admitting the problem!
Alas! Krugman’s column also refers to “policy elites.” In the original tale, were there highly-placed, wealthy interests determined to extend the illusion?
Opposing Krugman on today’s op-ed page, David Brooks starts his column in the following manner. Note the slight sleight-of-hand about “Nobel Prize winners”—reinforcing the (unstated but suggested) idea that no one can figure this out:
BROOKS (4/27/12): In 2009, we had a big debate about whether to pass a stimulus package. Many esteemed and/or Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz, Larry Summers and Christina Romer argued that it would help lift the economy out of recession. Many other esteemed and/or Nobel Prize-winning economists like Robert Barro, Edward Prescott and James Buchanan argued that positive effects would be small and the package wouldn’t be worth the long-term cost.Has Brooks learned something? Has his mind been changed in some way? Does he think our minds should have changed?
We went ahead and spent the roughly $800 billion. What have we learned?
For certain, nothing. The economists who supported the stimulus now argue the economy would have been worse off without it. Those who opposed it argue that the results have been meager. It’s hard to think of anybody whose mind has been changed by what happened.
For whatever reason, Brooks doesn’t say.
Krugman says the lesson is obvious. Directly oppposite him on the page, Brooks advances a different perception.