I don’t have the time to write much on it now, but I’d like to provide a bit of inoculation here: Richard Posner’s latest blog post is an embarrassment. He claims not to have heard what Krugman et al. would recommend for a stimulus package. This proves only that Posner himself has not been reading Krugman since the time of the first stimulus. Try this Google search, for instance. Posner apparently cannot be bothered to use Google.
One thing I find interesting in Limbaugh’s slam against Talking Points Memo is that he calls TPM “far left”. Bill O’Reilly has done the same thing, maybe not about TPM but about various other blogs. (I’ll dig up some examples. I’m sure they’re all on TPM, actually.)
By contrast, I wouldn’t call Limbaugh or Coulter or Hannity or Malkin “far right”. I would just call them unscrupulous. And unintelligent. And would assert that they contribute nothing to the public discourse — have befouled the public discourse, in fact. But they’re not fascists, just as I’m not a Communist.
I think it speaks to the (erstwhile, at least) success of branding people leftists that Limbaugh and O’Reilly would reach for this most faithful of rhetorical tools. It’s too early, I think, to say that the term “liberal” has lost all its force. The Democratic party’s leadership, for one, can’t stand the sight of it. But I wonder, for instance, what fraction of Americans self-identify as “liberal.” That’s an entirely separate question, by the way, from whether people would substantively define themselves as liberal. What if you asked them, for instance, whether they agree with this statement?
I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law.
That would be Paul Krugman. Of that affirmation, he writes, “That makes me a liberal, and I’m proud of it.” That’s the best definition of liberalism that I’ve found. I must be a far leftist.
For all Obama’s stirring eloquence in last night’s Iowa victory speech (included below), he still — to my mind — has not answered Paul Krugman’s repeated critique: that our president needs to be mean, that Democrats and Republicans cannot be brought together, and that hope is not a policy. Cosma Shalizi’s review of Krugman’s latest book is maybe the best synopsis of this viewpoint.
That said, congratulations to Obama, congratulations to his supporters, and good luck to the Democratic candidate who’s most likely to help our country.
The man gives great speech, if nothing else.
P.S.: Conversations with my friends over the past few weeks have suggested that most of us, myself included, believe the following: Obama and Edwards have their hearts in the right place, but may not know how to wield the levers of power effectively. Hillary, on the other hand, knows just how to move those levers, but moves them in the service of nothing valuable.
I’d add the following: if charm weighs at all in your decision of whom to vote for, Hillary loses in a landslide. Other than believing her the most electable candidate, I don’t know why anyone would vote for Clinton.
Paul Krugman has been Barack Obama’s enemy for going on a few months now. On a policy level, Krugman believes that solving the health-care crisis requires “mandates”: forcing everyone to participate. (He never uses the phrase, but he’s trying to solve the adverse-selection problem. Forcing people to get insurance seems like the only way to do this.) Today, on a broader political level, Krugman accuses Obama of being naïve in his quest for reconciliation. A candidate who actually accomplishes anything, says Krugman, will need to fight, and will need to anger some vested interests. Obama is not the man to do that.
I’d bet that Obama’s camp would rather have Krugman on their side. He’s probably America’s foremost progressive. He’s also a brilliant economist, so he can be trusted on a whole range of issues where, say, David Brooks cannot be. I know that I, personally, trust Krugman implicitly. Krugman’s take on the election has made me look more closely at John Edwards.
To get an idea of the gap between conservative mythology and reality, let’s look at the best book published in America. It’s called The Statistical Abstract of the United States, and if more people would get into the habit of checking it, our politics would be utterly transformed.
The Statistical Abstract is now available on the web. I spent many an hour poring over the book as a wee youth. Yes, that’s the kind of kid that I was.