Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Letter to the NY Times Public Editor

****I will post any response I get from the Times****

There is much wrong with Paul Krugman's August 5th, 2005 article entitled "Design for Confusion" and I have documented them here ( But I want to call attention to what can only be described as a serious breach of journalistic ethics. It is one thing to use someone's words against them. It is another thing to strip words of their context and make up something else entirely and represent that this is what they said.

Specifically, Krugman's article contains blatant misrepresentation of what Irving Kristol wrote in the Public Interest. You can read Kristol's full article here (
Let's examine the relevant paragraph:

"Secondly, it follows that our natural impulse was melioristic. From the outset, I was mindful of the injunction of my first editor at Commentary, Elliot Cohen, that you can't beat a horse with no horse. Even while being critical of the Great Society, The Public Interest was always interested in proposing alternate reforms, alternate legislation, that would achieve the desired aims more securely, and without the downside effects. This was something that did not much interest traditional conservatism, with its emphatic "anti-statist" focus. The difference also had something to do with the fact that traditional conservatives had many distinguished economists in their ranks, and economics is above all the science of limits, a great nay-saying enterprise. Among the core social scientists around The Public Interest there were no economists. (They came later, as we "matured.") This explains my own rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems. The task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority, so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government."

As you can see, Kristol isn't talking about supply-side economics, and he most certainly is not admitting that supply-side economics doesn't work. He is talking about neoconservatism and its political program. In fact, he is talking about the difference between his own project and that of the tratditional conservatives (who were opposed to the growth of government -- period). Kristol's neoconservative movement was going to be concerned with alternative policy proposals on a variety of social and economic issues...and those proposals were not, as had been the traditional conservative position, simply 'no, no, no' and 'less, less, less.' That's the argument and it is *obvious.* Overspending by government, what Kristol was talking about in the truncated quote provided by Krugman, was not a focus for Kristol's vision of a neoconservative movement. Traditional conservatives viewd the deficit as a growth in the power of the state and hence should be a primary focus for the conservative movement. Kristol disagreed that this should be the focus. Not only isn't Kristol talking about the results of supply-side oriented economic policies, he isn't talking about *economics* (i.e. a field of academic inquiry / theories on supply and demand) at all! He is saying nothing about economics. Now, look again to the Krugman article:

"Mr. Kristol led by example, using The Public Interest to promote supply-side economics, a doctrine whose central claim - that tax cuts have such miraculous positive effects on the economy that they pay for themselves - has never been backed by evidence. He would later concede, or perhaps boast, that he had a "cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit." "

Consider, Krugman's argument is that conservatives create pseudo-science to comport with their political values and principles. But Krugman's 'proof' of this is drawn entirely from a statement *of* political values and principles...having nothing to do with economics...let alone anything specific about supply-side. How is this anything but a blatant lie about what Kristol was talking about?

Note to Readers

Blogging will be very light over the next month. Intensive studying for comprehensive exams. Argh. Gulp!