Saturday, April 12, 2014

Asymmetric Idiocy

Paul Krugman took Ezra Klein to task last week, not in itself an unworthy exercise, but in the process exposed his tendency to both illogic and arrogance and, perhaps, actually validated and confirmed Ezra Klein’s point.

Klein’s topic had to do with tribal thinking, the well established pattern whereby people who are strongly attached to a particular idealism misread facts in a way that confirms their biases. People, he says, screen out or discount facts that don’t fit their worldview, and that is why so frequently that “politics makes us stupid.”

Klein claims that both liberals and conservatives do it, but Krugman says that “the lived experience is that this effect is not, in fact, symmetric between liberals and conservatives,” which is Princeton ivory tower speak for “what I see is that conservatives do it but liberals don’t.”

We could start with a set of tax cuts which Democrats have extended twice and which they, Krugman included, still call “the Bush tax cuts.” Not to mention that “Obama ended the war in Iraq,” which he did by allowing the executive orders signed by George W. Bush in 2008 to be carried out.

We could cite Krugman himself who claimed in one discussion that the post war boom was the result of government spending during the war and had nothing to do with the fact that the war had destroyed all of our competition because “it also destroyed all of our customers.” As if bombs not only turned factories into rubble, but also left no survivors, vaporized gold and obviated the possibility of extending credit.

In one notable discussion he claimed that New Deal spending ended the Depression until it was pointed out to him that that spending was cut back in 1937, at which point the country promptly went into recession. He then switched tactics and said the New Deal spending “staved off” the Depression until WW2 spending finally ended it. He then advocated that New Deal-type spending would end today’s recession, which neatly confirms Ezra Klein’s point that zealots ignore facts which do not fit their worldview, and refutes his own claim that liberals don’t do that.

Klein’s piece is lengthy, ponderous, and difficult to read, which his pieces always are, but buried in there where Krugman apparently missed it is the assertion that while zealots are blinding themselves to facts which do not confirm their prejudices, they are completely unaware that they are doing it. Anyone with an IQ higher than room temperature should not have to be told that, it should be self evident. Unless, of course, it doesn’t fit their concept of how they themselves do their own thinking.

Because what Paul Krugman is claiming is that conservatives do this while my friends and I don’t, but what he is actually saying is that conservatives can be seen to be doing this while my friends and I are doing it without knowing that we are doing it.

1 comment:

bruce said...

I'm sure the likes of Rush Limbaugh et al do the same as liberals in ignoring their own behaviour when comparing themselves to 'the other side". And the various other groups, interests, cliques, parties, etc. A pox on them all, please...

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