Occam’s Switchblade: Has American Movement Conservatism spread to Europe?

Sometimes a person just needs to take his own advice.

Paul Krugman has been writing for weeks about how the G-20 economic ministers and their academic advisors have lately fallen in love with economic austerity. He’s presently in Germany, and appalled that the Germans are talking about cutting off the recovery at the knees with highly restrictive measures.

On the one hand, he says this displays appalling professional ignorance:

[C]onsensus [on how to deal with a severe economic slump] has, of course, been lacking — largely because a significant proportion of the economics profession has spent the last three decades systematically destroying the hard-won knowledge of macroeconomics. It’s truly a new Dark Age, in which famous professors are reinventing errors refuted 70 years ago, and calling them insights.

On the other hand, he suspects there’s a reason for the madness:

I see that one of Germany’s Wise Guys Men has lashed out at me in Handelsblatt over my criticism of Axel Weber. . . . Naturally, an article titled “How about some facts?” gets some of the basic facts wrong. No, it wasn’t government encouragement of loans to low-income households that did it; that’s a zombie lie, and it’s telling that German officials don’t know that. [my emphasis]

But significantly, he doesn’t tell us why that telling lie is telling, or what it is telling us. Is there something Krugman is hiding — or something he’s hiding from? Since he doesn’t generally seem very reticent, I choose the latter.

Krugman implicitly frames the question this way: Why would responsible professionals say such obviously wrong things in pursuit of a policy whose goals don’t make sense?

There’s a long answer (which I may offer later), but for now, let’s just apply Occam’s Switchblade — they’re doing it because they want to.

What Krugman is hiding from is the fact that academics, like politicians, are fully capable of all the manipulative double-talk and deception that runs through the rest of Movement Conservatism. If they don’t act like responsible professionals, it’s because they’re not.

And how should we deal with these people? For an answer, I suggest Paul Krugman, 2010, read Paul Krugman, 2003. From the brilliant introduction to his Bush-era book, The Great Unraveling, he offers several suggestions for dealing with “America’s right-wing movement,” which he correctly calls “a revolutionary power.” Here are two of his suggestions:

  • Don’t assume that policy proposals make sense in terms of their stated goals.

    When you are dealing with a revolutionary power, it’s important to realize that it knows what it wants, and will make whatever argument advances that goal. So there should be no presumption that the claims it makes on behalf of its actions make any sense in their own terms.

  • Don’t assume that the usual rules of politics apply. . . . Because a revolutionary power does not regard the existing system as legitimate, it doesn’t feel obligated to play by the rules.

Much less speak by the rules. Please, Mr. Krugman, take your own advice. If Movement Conservatives don’t make sense, it’s because they’re hiding their goals. And if G-20 ministers and advisers talk like American Movement Conservatives, Occam’s Switchblade says it’s because they are.

Yes, folks. Pete Peterson–consciousness has metastasized to Europe. The beast at home has successfully exported itself. Welcome to the New Old World, Professor. And if you need some light reading, I have an author to suggest.

GP


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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