There’s a Storm Coming…Or How a Harvard Prof Digs His Own Intellectual Grave


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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80 Responses

  1. Avatar Kimmi says:

    rofl. delong’s been calling out Manikiew and the rest for being dishonest (for actually evaluating and coming to conclusions with insufficient data).Report

  2. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Well, Ferguson deserves his lumps. His truncating of the “uncertain” line from the CBO report is flatly dishonest.

    I’m curious, though, whether you’d take the time to post an article on other economists calling out Krugman for his misrepresentations?Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

      In this matter? Or over the long haul?

      I’ll readily admit that Ferguson is an easy target since he has a large cover story. Plus, I’m probably not economically astute enough to pick 0ut Krugman’s errors.

      But that’s why you’re here James! I leave it to you to bring balance to the relative saltiness of the waters around here.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        I love internet drama.
        I’d guess Krugman doesn’t get called out on here because his errors are significantly less egregious.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        Over the long haul.Report

        • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

          I think you should develop a top 10 list. Honestly, I don’t read his blog enough. I try to stay off the NYTimes Opinion page.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:


            No claim here that Krugman is necessarily a liar, just that he is not as reliable as certain folk with political agendas make him out to be (although, to be fair, neither is he actually as unreliable as certain other folk with certain other political agendas make him out to be).

            I’ll give a few examples, in no particular order (multiple posts b/c of the link limit), but less than ten because I’m buzy/lazy (take your pick).

            Krugman wrong in blaming current drought on global warming.

            Krugman inaccurately claims Britain is engaging in an austerity policyReport

            • Avatar Kimmi says:

              we don’t know how much to drink!
              Someone’s looking at an advertisement,
              missing the history behind teh development of a product,
              and fundamentally misunderstanding the question.

              No, we don’t need to drink so much water.
              But people die if they sweat out their electrolytes.
              Which is how Gatorade got made in the first place.

              Denver, it would appear, is a poor place to train
              if you’re really going to be footballing in Florida.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Krugman mis-represents Estonia’s recovery.

            Krugman mis-represents the field of macro-economics.

            This latter is worth quoting from:

            Imagine this were not an economics article. Imagine this were a respected scientist turned popular writer, who says, most basically, that everything everyone has done in his field since the mid-1960s is a complete waste of time. Everything that fills its academic journals, is taught in its PhD programmes, presented at its conferences, summarised in its graduate textbooks, and rewarded with the accolades a profession can bestow (including multiple Nobel Prizes) is
            totally wrong. Instead, he calls for a return to the eternal verities of a rather convoluted book written in the 1930s, as taught to our author in his undergraduate introductory courses. If a scientist, he might be an AIDS-HIV disbeliever,
            a creationist or a stalwart that maybe continents do not move after all. It gets worse. Krugman hints at dark conspiracies, claiming ‘dissenters are marginalised’. The list of enemies is evergrowing and now includes ‘new Keynesians’ such as Olivier Blanchard and Greg Mankiw. Rather than source professional writing, he
            uses out-of-context second-hand quotes from media interviews. He even implies that economists have adopted ideas for pay, selling out for ‘sabbaticals at the Hoover institution’ and fat ‘Wall Street paychecks’.

            Krugman, of course, is himself a Nobel Prize winner. But what the lay reader rarely understands is that he won his Nobel (deservedly) for trade theory, not any achievement in macroeconomics. His popular writings, of course, are essentially all about the latter rather than the former.

            I’ll note again that I think Krugman has the better of it in the case described in the OP. While Ferguson’s argument about the effect of ACA on the deficit is actually quite a reasonable argument, and while he’s correct that the CBO report is a bit squishy on the subject, he committed outright fraud by truncating the quote from the CBO report so as to purposely mis-represent what it actually said.

            But Krugman’s been known to mis-represent what other economists have said, distorting their statements for his own benefit (at best using what we call here an “uncharitable” reading, but occasionally changing the actual words used).Report

            • Avatar clawback says:

              Let’s see:

              Regarding global warming, if you read the piece in question you’ll see he properly qualified everything he said. The current drought is one data point among others suggesting a trend. Your characterization of his positions as “blaming current drought on global warming” is a distortion.

              Regarding British austerity, it’s difficult to prove the existence of austerity from government spending statistics as you can’t prove what policy would have been in its absence. Krugman focuses on the rhetoric of the policy makers; Cameron and others have consistently advocated the supposed expansionary qualities of austerity. Anyway, here’s one way of looking at it:


              Yes, austerity policies haven’t fully played out, but supposedly austerity works by “inspiring confidence”, which should happen early in the process as “job creators” are convinced by the policy. A more data-driven approach is here:


              Of course government expenditures rise during a severe recession; this is due to automatic stabilizers in the form of increased social spending. A more appropriate measure is comparing gov’t expenditures with “potential GDP”. By this measure the policy in the UK has indeed been one of austerity.

              Estonia had a very severe downturn; in such a case one can expect a fairly quick rebound from the trough. Comparing this rebound with those of countries that had shallow recessions is not useful, regardless of anything you read on Cafe Hayek.

              Finally, you really don’t want to wade into the debate about the state of macroeconomics without following it in detail. Cochrane truly is a crank, what with signing onto the “Economists for Romney” manifesto and all. Suffice to say Krugman has not in fact rejected modern macroeconomic theory; his work relies on it. His criticism of economists like Mankiw is due to their having sold out for political reasons, not to their using modern macro.


              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                A more appropriate measure is comparing gov’t expenditures with “potential GDP”. By this measure the policy in the UK has indeed been one of austerity.

                Only if we bowdlerize the meaning of austerity.

                Regarding global warming, if you read the piece in question you’ll see he properly qualified everything he said. The current drought is one data point among others suggesting a trend.

                Except it’s actually just a data point, with no trend really suggested.

                Estonia had a very severe downturn; in such a case one can expect a fairly quick rebound from the trough. Comparing this rebound with those of countries that had shallow recessions is not useful,

                But comparing it to what Estonia was doing before the recession is, and Krugman only looked at the GDP graph, not what was actually occurring within the economy. Following the issue more closely reveals that Estonian officials believe their pre-crash trend line was an unsustainable bubble, and that’s the line Krugman thinks they ought to be matching again.

                As to following the macro debate, I do, thank you very much. If you think backing Romney’s plan shows that an economist is a crank, then you bear the burden of proof to demonstrate that Gary Becker, Robert Lucas, Robert Mundell, Edward Prescott, and Myron Scholes, all Nobel Prize winners like Krugman, are cranks. Rather, Krugman might be considered the crank for his rigid insistence on the issue of the zero-lower-bound, which monetarists continually point out is not actually a stopping point for Fed policy. The odd thing is that despite being famous as a Keynesian, Krugman actually is 90% a monetarist, confident that monetary policy can readily handle most recessions. It’s only the especially bad ones where he thinks it can’t, because of the ZLB; but he hasn’t actually demonstrated that the ZLB is a monetary policy stopper. See also Sumner on liquidity traps.

                The general point here is not to bash Krugman as an economist. As I regularly say, I happily keep several of his books on my shelf, and I learned a lot from reading them. And his Nobel for trade theory was generally considered well-deserved. But he is not, and never has been, one of the discipline’s leading macro-economists. And those who criticize his insistent focus on the ZLB and liquidity traps are not dismissible as mere cranks.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The dismissal of the field of macroeconomics in general is actually a pretty widespread phenomenon particularly by people who handle things like trade theory. (I know I’ve taken several courses where the overview of macro was a “meh, it’s not that useful descriptively, but for completeness sake here’s what we’re covering” type discussions.)

                I have to admit, though I find Krugman to be unreliable and rather lacking in his understanding of political process and poli-sci theory more generally, I do kind of agree with him that macroeconomics as a field is pretty damned bad.

                As for austerity in Britain…

                I think by any reasonable measure Osborne’s policies as Chancellor HAVE been austerity policies.
                Note that during a downturn he did the following;
                -Raised the VAT by 2.5%
                -Froze public sector pay.
                -Recalculated pension benefits.

                The only reason expenditures keep going up is because employment has actually collapsed due to…surprise, a lack of demand. And thus safety net spending goes up.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I have to admit, though I find Krugman to be unreliable and rather lacking in his understanding of political process and poli-sci theory more generally,

                Yes, it’s a shame he doesn’t apply the tools of economic analysis to politics. As near as I can tell, he either has no interest in public choice theory or he simply rejects it. He seems to think making right policy is only a matter of “just do it.”

                I do kind of agree with him that macroeconomics as a field is pretty damned bad.

                That’s a pretty wide-spread phenomenon. Macro’s always been a bit speculative, since we can’t do anything like controlled experiments with it, and it’s never been really well-connected to micro, where we can get really behavioral in our study of it. One of the reasons I say Cochrane’s not a crank is that he’s one of the folks trying to build a more solid basis for macro by linking it more closely to micro–e.g., trying to figure out how individual decisions of households and firms shape the macro-economy and how they respond to policy changes.

                Of course that suits me because I’m a micro guy myself. I’m not sure why anyone would really be interested in anything besides individual decision-making, or how they think we could understand the big picture without building it up from individual decision-making. Of course that just makes me a reductionist, which in our field is more often used as an insult than as praise, right?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                What does pubic choice theory have to say about bribery and… influence?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Public choice theory says that if people have an incentive to engage in bribery and influence seeking they will, and we should expect policies to reflect that, which is rather different from the “just do it right” approach to policy that most people seem to have. In fact public choice theory draws directly on marginalism to argue that the amount of money spent pursuing a particular policy should be up to an equivalent amount of the value of a policy (that can be refined to account for probability of achieving success, of course). The great mystery is why influence spending, as large as it is, actually seems to be considerably less than that theoretically predicted amount.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Allow me:
                Much of influence spending relies on politicians wanting to get reelected. Because of this, a happy “investor” who is willing to continue to give indefinitely, is a resource to be cultivated.
                These investors know this, and therefore don’t bother giving a lot, because a lot isn’t necessary to get the influence needed (particularly for small things. getting a politician to do things blatantly against the public interest is a different story, and generally achieved via propaganda). Just a constant revenue stream.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Plausible, but it doesn’t account for competition between influence-seekers who want competing things. They ought to be bidding against each other, driving up the cost of influence.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                if what you need is a bit of “palm greasing” (say to be able to put up a 6foot talk sign on a skyscraper), you aren’t actually competing against anyone else. I’d expect to see a lot of bidding up among gov’t contractors, actually.
                How do people account for “I got your kid into this invitation only preschool” in terms of raw money, anyhow?Report

              • Avatar clawback says:

                Only if we bowdlerize the meaning of austerity.

                Please try to make an argument if you can.

                Except it’s actually just a data point, with no trend really suggested.

                Um, a single data point does not make a trend. No one suggested it did.

                Following the issue more closely reveals that Estonian officials believe their pre-crash trend line was an unsustainable bubble, and that’s the line Krugman thinks they ought to be matching again.

                Nope. Nowhere does Krugman indicate Estonia should be matching the bubble trend line. As I clearly stated, he’s just saying one should not be impressed with a sharp rebound from a deep recession. You might try clicking the links I provided.

                Krugman might be considered the crank for his rigid insistence on the issue of the zero-lower-bound, which monetarists continually point out is not actually a stopping point for Fed policy.

                Sheesh. Have you bothered to read anything he’s written? His ZLB doesn’t mean monetary policy is powerless, just that the Fed has to use different tools, with less history to draw on. He has consistently supported all rounds of quantitative easing. He’s somewhat skeptical it can be successful because there’s little history to compare with, but he supports it as there’s little risk in trying and the need is great. Look, this really is just a matter of reading what he’s written rather than the output of the right’s echo chamber.

                And despite your implication, the economists you mention are actually in the camp that generally say neither monetary nor fiscal policy matter because of Ricardian equivalence. Well, except when it’s convenient to say they do matter. Here’s Cochrane in a single blog post telling us that fiscal policy both does and does not matter. Yeah, he’s a crank.


              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Re: austerity. If holding spending fairly constant counts as austerity, then we’ve changed the definition, which used to be about cutting government expenditures. It really smacks of moving the goalposts.

                As to the drought claim, Krugman said flatly, ” And yes, the drought is linked to climate change.” (link: He wasn’t talking about it being one data point; he said unequivocally that it is linked to climate change. Well of course it could be, but no one knows whether in fact it is.

                Further, Krugman says, “Now, maybe this drought will break in time to avoid the worst. But there will be more events like this. Joseph Romm, the influential climate blogger, has coined the term “Dust-Bowlification” for the prospect of extended periods of extreme drought in formerly productive agricultural areas.” But the IPCC report (link: says:

                In North America, there is medium confidence that there has been an overall slight tendency toward less dryness (wetting trend with more soil moisture and runoff; Table 3-2), although analyses for some subregions also indicate tendencies toward increasing dryness. … The mostsevere droughts in the 20th century have occurred in the 1930s and 1950s, where the 1930s Dust Bowl was most intense and the 1950s drought most persistent…in the United States,

                Also worthy of note, the Sahara seems to be greening, perhaps because of AGW. (link:

                So, Krugman on climate is not the most reliable source available.

                Nowhere does Krugman indicate Estonia should be matching the bubble trend line.

                Yes, he does. By calling the recovery “incomplete,” he’s saying it ought to have reached the pre-recession bubble level. OK, that’s technically different than matching the trend line, but he’s still snarking their austerity on the grounds that it hasn’t caused GDP to reach the level it reached during the bubble.

                As to his view on the ZLB, he does indeed say other forms of Fed activity will be necessary, which puts him right in line with Scott Sumner, despite his regular criticism of Sumner. But he also argues that at the ZLB fiscal policy is necessary, which is ironic because his criticism of the lack of history to support QE is perfectly matched by a lack of history to support fiscal policy.

                Eh, as to the economists I mention, I set out a variety. I’m not in a particular camp when it comes to macro-econ. I instinctively like Kling’s patterns of sustainable specialization and trade argument, but it’s certainly far from proven, and I dislike Sumner’s hyper-monetarism because I’m something of an inflation hawk, but the monetarists have more history on their side than anyone else does (and Sumner would, of course, smack me hard for even using the word “inflation”). So I wasn’t trying to say, “Hey, X is right about macro and Krugman’s wrong.” I was just trying to say “Let’s stop deifying Paul Krugman.” Because he is far from the last word in macroeconomics.

                As to Cochrane, it seems to me you misread his article. He is not really arguing that fiscal policy works. He’s saying that Greece’s transfer payments are effectively fiscal policy and they’re what’s harming the Greek economy (along with protective regulations).

                Look, there’s plenty of room for disagreement on these issues, given that there are multiple approaches to macroeconomic policy that are prominent in the discipline. But if your approach is to simply defend Krugman as infallible, and call anyone who disagrees with him a crank, then there’s not going to be much room here for reasoned debate.Report

              • Avatar clawback says:

                Regarding austerity, I guess we’re done since we cannot agree on a definition. I’ll say only that if UK economic performance were better, I’m confident the austerity folks would be claiming it as their own.

                As to climate change, fair enough; the statement you quoted is indeed more conclusory than I’m fully comfortable with.

                By any reasonable measure Estonia is still in deep economic trouble. Unemployment is about 11%, and GDP is substantially lower than its pre-recession peak. If not for the politics, everyone would agree it’s too early to spike the ball.

                The history supporting fiscal policy is far more complete than that of QE. “Perfectly matched”? Please. There’s plenty of evidence, as Krugman himself cites:


                Whereas QE has almost no precedent in economic history.

                Let’s stop deifying Paul Krugman.

                OK. How about I just respect his work because he backs it with facts and logic? If you want to bring your own facts and logic I’m happy to discuss. But starting with being an “inflation hawk” and going from that to finding macroeconomists who support your preconceptions is not a good start.

                As to Cochrane’s post, we find this:

                As incomes decline, tax revenue drops, and it is harder to cut spending. A downward spiral looms.

                The only way a downward spiral works is if spending matters. Any other interpretation (e.g., they need “structural reforms”) could not possibly result in the self-reinforcing decline implied by the term downward spiral.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Ugg… You’re quibbling about things that I wouldn’t quibble about. I don’t really care about “it’s global warming” versus “it’s NOT global warming”

                I care about someone fundamentally misunderstanding what a “flash drought” is…

                Be interested to see if he has/will revise based on more work/reading.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                If you define “austerity” using current-services-baseline reasoning, then make sure you do the same for defense spending.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Hmm, just noticed this. Well, if you’ll notice, I did plenty of respecting of Krugman’s work as well. But if you’re implying that those who disagree with him–i.e., a goodly number of other macroeconomists out there in the econosphere–don’t also back their work with facts and logic, then you’re not being honest or fair to them, and it does smack of Krugman deification.

                If you’re truly not deifying him, then I apologize for suggesting so. But I have any number of liberal friends who read Krugman and conclude that all the economists who disagree with him are fools and frauds, and they know that because Krugman said so. His pronouncements are treated by them with the same kind of reverence that Greenspan’s utterances once received from the market. Folks who don’t even know any of Friedman’s critiques of fiscal policy who are dead sure that only a small handful of crackpots in the economics profession aren’t full-blown Keynesians–you know, Austrians and those goose-stepping fascists at Chicago who were proven wrong about everything by the recession.

                It does get a bit wearisome.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                so long as Zandi’s still a Keynesian…
                (is romney’s team that way too? haven’t looked into it much…)Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                How much of his recent research have you read? Last I heard (a few years ago), he was actively investigating some stuff to help pull us out of this mess…
                Did that ever get published, or was it just … distributed to interested parties?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                A) I’m not sure. I do think he’s put his ideas out in a recent book or two, but I’m not sure about whether he’s published them in journals.

                B) I’m not sure it matters. Tyler Cowen (iirc) commented a while back that almost nothing of note appears in econ journals anymore that isn’t already known to everybody by virtue of having already been proposed and debated publicly via econ blogs. So publication is sort of an “after the idea has proven itself” thing in econ now (if he’s correct), which suggests that publication itself isn’t that relevant a measure anymore.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                for part b, it’s the same in physics, too. I find the idea of an open and active debate that doesn’t take months in between salvos to be refreshing, honestly.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    This makes me feel a whole lot better about occasionally getting a fact wrong when setting up Monday Trivia questions.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      reminds me: here’s a trivia question if you want it…
      Money Mullah Doughboy Lawn Gnome.
      The game is to guess the people.Report

  4. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    The usual suspects circle the wagons for Obama. Dog Bites Man.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Shorter Tom: Sure, he lied, but he lied in the service of attacking a politician I don’t like, therefore anyone who says he lied is just playing partisan politics.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

        I didn’t even read it. Parsing a piece for errors isn’t “fact-checking.” I let it all shake out, thank you. It’s just the usualness of the suspects, Krugman, DeLong, Sullivan, all crowing on the parsing of a single sentence about Obamacare is way beneath my radar.

        If a lefty had made these errors, they’d be “correcting” his inaccuracies. When they go for the kill, the same error makes the author a “liar” and they scorch his earth, This stuff is old hat, the standard procedure for scholars reviewing each other.

        Thanks, Chris for your usual personal attack.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          So my shorter was accurate. Thanks.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          So you haven’t read it, but you’re comfortable passing judgement on it?

          I’m curious — is that more of a Bush “know it in your gut” level of comfort? Or is it a “don’t bother me with facts, I know what I know” sort of judgement? Or have you merely transcended reality, into some ur-plane of reasoning wherein up and down, left and right, right and wrong have no meaning — all that is left is…idealogy.

          Shouldn’t you expect more, at least of yourself? Is this the sort of person you want to be? To literally say “I don’t need to read it to know everything it says”?

          I’m torn, really. Is your reaction lame? Pathetic? Sad? I’m not sure.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Bitchy old ladies. Outside the Pauline Kael-osphere, nobody cares. Me, I’ll just wait til the smoke clears, read 5 minutes of each side, and get back to real life. Pathetic? Nay, wise. Pathetic is giving it another minute of our time.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              Except you didn’t. Instead you’re sitting here claiming to know the truth, without even skimming it.

              Sad. I’m going with sad.

              Because I think you have read it. You’re playing “pox on both their houses” because you can’t defend Fergussen, but don’t want to admit Krugman is right on anything.

              Why? Because otherwise you wouldn’t have bothered posting anything at all.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                You skipped the part where I said that opponents “lie,” allies “err.” The Pauline-Kael-osphere circles the wagons for Obama, scorches Ferguson’s earth. No news here, move along.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Really? You know this how? From your deep reading of the articles?

                Oh wait, you didn’t read them. You’re strangely proud of that fact.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              Just to clarify: If you hadn’t read it at all, why would you bother posting? But you hurried here, read the original post, and made sure to claim “both sides are equally to blame”.

              And made a point to say “I didn’t read it” so you couldn’t be called upon to defend it.

              That’s just PR. Really CRAPPY PR.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                James Hanley is doing an ace job reminding us about Krugman’s follies, the only one of Ferguson’s critics who’s worth even half a damn. That’s why I wrote. If we’re just going to be an echo chamber for Mother Jones and Excitable Andy Sullivan, I’m going to have a well-deserved laugh. Brad DeLong. As if.

                Since nobody here is going to do any original work on this, unless you have something of substance on this, seeya when the smoke clears, after Ferguson’s fiskers get their own fisking.

                Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Amusing. You have now spent more time trying to explain how you can “know” what side is right, or who is more trustworthy, without reading the article than it would have taken you to have read it.

                And yet you’re talking about echo chambers?

                Jesus, Tom — at least everyone else read the damn article. What’s that say about you? Spinning desperately for the home team without even bothering to spend five minutes skimming an article?

                All this time spent replying to a post you claim to have not read?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Eh, don’t enlist me in your campaign here, TVD. I’ve explicitly said Ferguson committed an intellectual fraud with his dishonest snipping of the CBO quote, and I stand by that. So I think you’re quite wrong–there’s a real issue of intellectual honesty here beyond a mere partisan dustup.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                I look forward to your full analysis of the Ferguson article, not just the cherry-picking of the cherry-picking. This little drama in Kael-ville is small potatoes.

                So far, we’re just echoing Ferguson’s critics. I’ll wait for all sides of the story and a complete review. He said for the tenth time. We shall stipulate the Obamacare factoid for the sake of progress. I suspect that represents a small percentage of the Ferguson thesis.

                And you did do a good job on Krugman.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                not just the cherry-picking of the cherry-picking. This little drama in Kael-ville is small potatoes.

                A claim you can’t make meaningfully without reading the article.

                As to the full article, I’ll just add this. He directly compares the ’08 deficit to the current deficit, to Obama’s detriment, without noting that the biggest jump came in the ’09 budget, which was Bush’s, not Obama’s. That’s dishonest.

                And here’s the key: Ferguson did not just make errors. He committed dishonesties. Snipping a quote to misrepresent it’s meaning is not an error, but a dishonesty. Repeating a little trick that’s been done by many others and pointed out nearly as often (pretending Obama’s responsible for the ’09 budget) is not an error, but a dishonesty.

                How many dishonesties does a person need to commit in a single tete a’ tete before taking note of them is no longer cherry picking?Report

              • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

                I guess this is what gets me, and he’s a professor at a prestigious school (really hope he doesn’t actually teach).

                Again, there are perfectly cogent arguments to make against Obama, especially on the debt and entitlement reform, and you can go see Mitch Daniels make it respectfully and directly, and without schoolyard grade deceptions.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Yup, my shorter was dead on.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                How many dishonesties does a person need to commit in a single tete a’ tete before taking note of them is no longer cherry picking?

                Well, ya know James, I’ve heard that our problems remain epistemological, so there’s just no sayin.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                “How many dishonesties does a person need to commit in a single tete a’ tete before taking note of them is no longer cherry picking?”

                Wait! I know this one!

                It’s two to hold the light bulb and one to… wait, no, it’s one to turn the ladder and… no, I’m totally telling it wrong…Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Ah, yes, the Grand Ol’ OPRE.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Half of it holding up is plenty of reason to dump Obama.

                The Pauline Kael Brigade was tasked with not refuting Ferguson, but destroying him. That’s why they’re calling him a liar and other gutter tactics.

                And thanks for lining up and waiting nicely for me to get home. Nice to see you, Tod.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                How many dishonesties does a person need to commit in a single tete a’ tete before taking note of them is no longer cherry picking?

                The answer, my friend, is being a blowhardReport

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The Pauline Kael Brigade

                That’s a really bad analogy, since Pauline Kael was talking about what a politically narrow community she moved within. That has absolutely no relevance to the issue of whether someone made false claims or now. You’re using the Kael line reflexively now, regardless of whether it actually fits.

                was tasked with not refuting Ferguson, but destroying him. That’s why they’re calling him a liar and other gutter tactics.

                Calling someone a liar when they intentionally misrepresent the facts is perfectly legitimate. Always has been, always will. Once again we see that your approach to gentlemanly behavior focuses more on form than substance. It’s not particularly ungentlemanly to misrepresent the facts, but it is ungentlemanly to call a person on it. That’s silly.

                And thanks for lining up and waiting nicely for me to get home.

                Next time post your travel schedule, so we can know.Report

  5. Avatar Scott Fields says:

    Ethan –

    …Associate Editor Matthew O’Brien fact-checks Ferguson’s account in full. What he discovers is the following:

    There are plenty of legitimate reasons to disapprove of the president. Here’s the big one: 8.3 percent. That’s the current unemployment rate, fully three years on from the official end of the Great Recession. But rather than make this straightforward case against the current administration, Ferguson delves into a fantasy world of incorrect and tendentious facts. He simply gets things wrong, again and again and again.

    Here’s what I don’t get. If there are ample legitimate reasons to disapprove of Obama, why is this distortion even necessary?Report

    • Avatar E.C. Gach says:

      That’s the question, and I have don’t have a good answer, other than Ferguson’s a hack. His piece is deliberately misleading, even when he could easily make the same claims, and support them, without needing to do so.

      Ferguson is especially scary because of what a fervent imperialist he is, and the fact that he doesn’t let reality (see the last three years of his economic predictions) get in the way of whatever jingoist terrors he’s spewing on about.Report

      • Avatar Scott Fields says:

        But, Ferguson’s not the only one resorting to gross distortion when there is other ammunition available. Romney’s been pretty
        blatantly lying
        , while he could just be making the case against Obama that several commenters here have ably made.

        Doesn’t he have any faith in the power of his message straight-up?Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          Two things:
          Authoritarians like white and black.
          The people who aren’t authoritarians like democratic policies on the economy.Report

  6. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    I think the sad thing isn’t that Ferguson did a hack job.

    The sad thing is this sort of outright distortion has been his basic MO for years, up to and including his latest book where he conveniently lays out his racial superiority bullshit of the “Westtern Civilization” nonsense.

    The tragedy is that he’s considered a scholar at all.Report

  7. Avatar greginak says:

    Ferguson’s book on ww1 The Pity of War was actually good. However like many ideologues he is only good when he stays away from politics or the book wasn’t really that good.Report

  8. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    Half of it holding up is plenty of reason to dump Obama.

    As a summation of the argument for Ferguson’s defense, this is incredibly telling.Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

      Not defending it. Waiting for the full story. Nobody reads Newsweek anyway, and aside from Krugman, not much of the critics either.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        The full story is right there, Tom. Fergussen made claims about Obama using a CBO claims.

        Not “projections” not “opions” — but actually factual, historical claims based on a freely available document.

        There’s no “full story”. There’s what Fergussen said, there’s the CBO documents he referenced, and there’s the fact that “blatant dishonesty” is the best case you can make for what he said.

        You’d know that if you read the article.

        Seriously, what is it with you? You’ve spent about 10 times more time on this thread giving your opinion on an article you seem proud of not having read than it would have taken to READ the article and given an informed statement.

        It makes me wonder why you refuse to read the article.Report

  9. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    The curious aspect to this Ferguson foofaraw is why anyone would think a Ferguson rant would ever be anything but partisan. Hoover Institute, Stanford, a confidant of Henry Kissinger, a defender of colonialism and the Iraq War — this is the sort of noisy little idiot who picks fights with tall kids on the school yard, just to get some attention.

    Sure, Ferguson’s now sporting a bloody nose, the result of a beatdown inflicted on him by a number of economists who don’t agree with his positions. But don’t you see? This beatdown from the likes of Krugman and DeLong and others only serve to validate his positions. When facts and resources and numbers won’t serve your cause, the best course of action is always to provoke your enemy into over-responding. Classic guerrilla warfare tactic. Now Ferguson can limp around in high dudgeon, displaying his wounds like so many stigmate. His coterie of equally delusional hangers-on will stroke his shoulder and they will all have a little pity party for him.

    Many better arguments have been made about Obama’s handling of the economy. More could yet be made. But most of the factors which might lead to a fuller recovery are beyond Obama’s control: my own crude little Aggro-meter is responding to the rise in gasoline prices with a thumbs-down for Obama. More than unemployment, which is bad enough, the price of gasoline is the most excruciating pain point in the quotidian American existence. People on the street will preferentially make small talk about the price of gasoline where once they would talk about the weather.

    I believe the facts are on Krugman’s side of the argument, thereby exhibiting my own biases like a baboon’s rump. Krugman’s got more substantive enemies than Niall Ferguson. The facts may not be on their side but since when did the application of facts ever win an argument?Report

  10. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    A short e-mail exchange:

    From: Mike Schilling
    To: James Fallows
    Subject: RE: As a Harvard Alum, I Apologize
    I’m a Berkeley alum. I’ll trade you John Yoo for Ferguson and a miscreant to be named later.


    From: James Fallows
    To: Mike Schilling
    Subject: RE: As a Harvard Alum, I Apologize
    Good point.Report

  11. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    I’m working on preparing a long winded piece about this whole story for tomorrow.

    I’m looking for conservative defenses of Ferguson’s piece, anyone come across some good ones, or just ones from somewhat notable people/conservative figures/pundits?Report

  12. Avatar damon says:

    Help me out with this.

    A partisan hack gets beat up by hacks on the other side and this is news? He skewed his facts to make a point, as did they. This is newsworthy? I don’t’ really know much about Ferguson, but I know Krugman is a tool, and as has been pointed out, his Nobel is not in the area he typically writes on.

    I also know that there is not a damn bit of difference between Mitt and BOB, at least where it matters in turning around the economy, foreign policy, erosion of constitutional rights, etc.. And that 8+% of unemployment has been well debunked as bogus, just like the CPI, etc. They are much higher.

    I have no desire to see either of these fools running, elected. One is driving a car over a cliff at 90 MPH, the other at 110 MPH. Voting just indicates an endorsement of the same policies that got us here in the first place.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      Krugman’s a decent guy. So’s Dr. Doom. They earned MASSIVE cred for speaking out about a bubble before it burst. So far, they’ve been doing a DAMN sight better than Ferguson, whose predictions seem rather ideologically based.

      Do you read shadowstats? One of the guys who started that project (it paid well) worked with Krugman for a while. Let that say something about Krugman’s rep among the cannier econ geeks.

      Being president is like riding a bucking bronco. You don’t get to steer nearly as much as everyone else thinks, and you get blamed/praised for things you don’t deserve.Report

      • Avatar damon says:

        Krugman: insert “statist” before tool. Fixed. Well, given that Krugman’s wrong on his economic recommendations most of the time, being a Keynesian, getting something right once or twice is kinda irrelevant. Hell, if you were paying attention, you knew we were in a bubble.

        Yes, I’ve familiar with shadowstats.

        Yes, presidents get blamed for stuff / take credit for stuff that they really shouldn’t. For example: I don’t BOB or Bush for the current recession, I blame them for failing to take the correct actions to fix the problem, and for taking actions that worsen the problem. I blame them for allowing torture, for refusing to look into credible allegations of Geneva Convention violations, etc. In short I blame them for lying about what they do only to win office and then once in office, to ignore they promises, you know, like most politicians. And yet, here we are, doing it all over again. Didn’t someone define insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results?Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          Obamacare exists. That was a lot of people’s reason for voting for the guy.

          What do you propose instead of Keynesianism? And how much of your proposition is based on Ferguson’s reasoning (an INflation Storm is coming! everybody run! The sky is falling!!!).Report