RedState On Intellectual Laziness

RedState On Intellectual Laziness

I know I said, after the election, that I wasn’t going to pay attention to conservatives being silly. What can I say: I’m weak — too weak, at any rate, to resist when something so deliciously surreal swims into my ken. Here (h/t) is Pejman Yousefzadeh at RedState, in a post called ‘Poseurs’:

Jon Henke (…) points out that even Paul Krugman — no right-winger, he! — has stated that monetary policy, not Keynesian spending sprees, will be the tool with which the economy can best get out of its slump.

I look forward, of course, to members of the “reality-based community” condemning Krugman as a dumb or unpatriotic conservative. They won’t, of course. Instead, they will just ignore evidence and statements that go against their cherished, preconceived notions.

That’s the intellectually lazy way to deal with inconvenient arguments. And the “reality-based community” has intellectual laziness down to a (dismal) science.”

If someone were intellectually lazy, he might write a post like this without bothering to check Krugman’s actual views, which are, as it happens, pretty easy to find, since the NYT has helpfully provided a link to all his columns. In it, just four down from the top, one can find a link to a column called ‘Depression Economics Returns’, with this little blurb:

“The United States economy has entered a state of affairs in which the usual tools of economic policy have lost all traction.”

Hmm, the non-intellectually lazy writer might think: what are those “usual tools”? From Krugman’s column:

“We are already, however, well into the realm of what I call depression economics. By that I mean a state of affairs like that of the 1930s in which the usual tools of economic policy — above all, the Federal Reserve’s ability to pump up the economy by cutting interest rates — have lost all traction. (…)”

“On both of these earlier occasions [the recessions of 1990-1 and 2001] the standard policy response to a weak economy — a cut in the federal funds rate, the interest rate most directly affected by Fed policy — was still available. Today, it isn’t: the effective federal funds rate (as opposed to the official target, which for technical reasons has become meaningless) has averaged less than 0.3 percent in recent days. Basically, there’s nothing left to cut.

And with no possibility of further interest rate cuts, there’s nothing to stop the economy’s downward momentum. Rising unemployment will lead to further cuts in consumer spending, which Best Buy warned this week has already suffered a “seismic” decline. Weak consumer spending will lead to cutbacks in business investment plans. And the weakening economy will lead to more job cuts, provoking a further cycle of contraction.

To pull us out of this downward spiral, the federal government will have to provide economic stimulus in the form of higher spending and greater aid to those in distress — and the stimulus plan won’t come soon enough or be strong enough unless politicians and economic officials are able to transcend several conventional prejudices.”

A non-intellectually lazy writer might also check Krugman’s blog. There he would find a post called ‘The Keynesian Moment’, in which Krugman states his own view quite clearly: normally, monetary tools can deal with recessions; however, “there were situations in which monetary policy could do no more”; we are in such a situation today.

At this point, a non-intellectually lazy writer might think: hmm, I wonder what’s up with those quotes Jon Henke came up with, in which Krugman says that monetary policy is best? A hypothesis might occur to him: if Krugman thinks that monetary policy is normally adequate, and was adequate in the last two recessions, but that we find ourselves today in one of those abnormal situations in which it is not, perhaps those quotes come from articles written during one of the last two recessions — say, in 2001. Regrettably, Henke doesn’t seem to provide links, but since our imaginary author is not lazy, he would google them and discover that, in fact, they are from 2001. (1, 2, 3.)

That’s what a non-intellectually lazy writer would have done. It’s also what a writer with any sense of self-respect, or one capable of entertaining the idea that he might possibly be wrong, or one with any sense of irony would have done, before writing an article accusing other people of being intellectually lazy poseurs.

RedState should think about hiring such a writer, just for the sake of contrast. It would spare them a lot of embarrassment.

***

UPDATE: I should note that Jon Henke notes that “there are also good economic arguments for fiscal stimulus – even massive fiscal stimulus – as “in the face of deep and persistent slumps” and when “the economy is near a liquidity trap” (both of which are possible).” He didn’t get it wrong; Yousefzadeh did.

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