Dr. Krugman and Mr. Hyde

I’ve criticized several of Paul Krugman’s posts on this blog, so a reader might think I’m simply opposed to him. That’s not the case. In fact, I find myself more often igniting the ire of, hem, “right leaning” friends when I favorably cite some of Dr. Krugman’s work. There are people who viscerally hate the guy. I’m not one of them.

My opinion of his “The Conscious of a Liberal” (no, that’s not a smug name for a blog, not at all) posts and NYT column break down into – very roughly, without having done any formal sampling, nonobjective, etc. – thirds:

1) A constant stream of confirming red meat for his audience of loyal ditto heads. Over the top attacks and deliberately misleading presentation of data. *
2) Well-deserved, fact-based dissemination of others’ positions, exposing logical fallacies, specious reasoning, bad data, and outright lies. **
3) Explanation of the models he uses and why he thinks they apply to the matter at hand. ***

My criticisms have been in response to posts I think are type #1. I wade through the #1s because I find the #2s and especially the #3s worth it.

Sometimes the value in a type #3 post is simply to clarify a definition such that confusion and bad thinking can be avoided. And so I give you this:

For it seems that like so many writers in this area, the authors don’t understand the meaning of potential output.

Once again, potential output is a supply-side concept. Just as structural unemployment is defined as the lowest rate of unemployment consistent with stable low inflation, potential output is defined as the highest level of output consistent with stable low inflation.

I know, not exciting. But there is a ton of bad stuff out there and you’re not going to find many popular writers who set you straight.

By the way, those terms he’s talking about, well, like, they’re kind of central to any reasonable discussion about our economic situation right now. So it may sound nerdy, but if you read even casual stuff in this area, you’re reading about this. Whether an author makes it explicit or not is about style and the proficiency of the readership. It can also be about hiding weak arguments. Reader beware.

* Mr. Hyde
** Mr. Krugman
*** Dr. Krugman

[Update: Trivial, funny – as if on cue, the day after my this post Dr. Krugman writes “Notice that this isn’t the evil Krugman talking”. He must be monitoring my blog!]

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One Response to Dr. Krugman and Mr. Hyde

  1. David Batty says:

    I must admit that I have a hard time reading Krugman’s columns after encountering far too much of #1 (aka Mr. Hyde) in the columns I did try. At best, I found a smattering of #2 (Mr. Krugman) and the merest hint of #3 (Dr. Krugman). However, I’m also willing to admit that my due to a small “sample size” in my attempts. There is so much garbage in the media today that my BS filter can kick in a little too early for my own good.

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