One of the things one supposedly learns in the academic world is that while the world has its black-and-white issues, there also are many shades of gray. Now, I am not speaking so much of "situational ethics" or even what some have called "the New Morality" (which is not particularly moral nor new), but rather those areas where people may disagree on what is the right thing to do in certain things.
Another thing we supposedly learn in that world is that one does not argue legitimately by setting up straw men and then demolishing them. One has to be careful in setting up generalities that simply have no meaning as the foundation of one's arguments.
Over the years, I have been fortunate to have met a number of well-known economists, including a number who have won the Nobel Prize in economics. Furthermore, I have known a lot of their friends and have had the opportunity to sit with some of them and have long conversations, as well as see them interact with others.
A number of them have had columns and articles in the popular media, including the late Milton Friedman and Gary Becker, and I read many of them. I cannot recall one time when either of them ever drew the distinction that they were holy and moral and anyone who disagreed with them was pure evil. In fact, many of these Nobel winners have demonstrated a real graciousness toward those in other camps.
And then there is Paul Krugman, who really draws the line in today's column, "A Tale of Two Moralities
." In this column, we find there are two kinds of people in our society.
The first group he describes as such:
One side of American politics considers the modern welfare state — a private-enterprise economy, but one in which society’s winners are taxed to pay for a social safety net — morally superior to the capitalism red in tooth and claw we had before the New Deal. It’s only right, this side believes, for the affluent to help the less fortunate.
These are the good people, as they want wonderful things for those who are less fortunate. Unfortunately, he continues, there also are the Bad People in our midst:
The other side believes that people have a right to keep what they earn, and that taxing them to support others, no matter how needy, amounts to theft. That’s what lies behind the modern right’s fondness for violent rhetoric: many activists on the right really do see taxes and regulation as tyrannical impositions on their liberty.
How do these people differ? Krugman explains:
There’s no middle ground between these views. One side saw health reform, with its subsidized extension of coverage to the uninsured, as fulfilling a moral imperative: wealthy nations, it believed, have an obligation to provide all their citizens with essential care. The other side saw the same reform as a moral outrage, an assault on the right of Americans to spend their money as they choose.
He goes on to explain that the Good People are Democrats, but the Bad People are Republicans. The Good People are kind, generous (at least with other people's money), and make good neighbors.
The Bad People, on the other hand, are violent, greedy, selfish, and are so out-of-control that there really is no reasoning with them, as they reject any attempt at reconciliation. These Bad People have no socially or morally redeeming values, and Krugman promises to show how they also spread a bad social theology:
But that was then. Today’s G.O.P. sees much of what the modern federal government does as illegitimate; today’s Democratic Party does not. When people talk about partisan differences, they often seem to be implying that these differences are petty, matters that could be resolved with a bit of good will. But what we’re talking about here is a fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government.
Regular readers know which side of that divide I’m on. In future columns I will no doubt spend a lot of time pointing out the hypocrisy and logical fallacies of the “I earned it and I have the right to keep it” crowd. And I’ll also have a lot to say about how far we really are from being a society of equal opportunity, in which success depends solely on one’s own efforts.
I only can wonder how Krugman deals with students at Princeton who are not in his moral corner. After all, he is publicly declaring that their views are immoral and illegitimate and have no place in decent society. After having seen how much of the faculty at Duke University dealt with the false allegations in the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case of four years ago, Krugman does have a model to follow, and the faculty members who engaged in the worst conduct at Duke also are people in Krugman's political corner.
Of course, only the Bad People make false allegations. Only the Bad People engage in violence. (There were no Obama supporters outside a polling place
making threats. That is just your imagination.)
The first is that the Tucson shooter was not a political person, and what happened is not necessarily something that falls into the category of political violence. There is no evidence that Jared Lougher knew the identity of the federal judge, and I don't think one murders nine-year-old girls for political reason.
Krugman, however, has ignored the facts because they don't fit his narrative. But there is even a bigger issue that Krugman ignores and that is the violence committed by government agents. I never have seen Krugman speak on one incident in which those wearing government costumes have engaged in unwarranted violent behavior against innocent people.
(Will Grigg has documented government violence
against innocents -- including outright murder -- numerous times. I guess that the very act of pointing out that fact, according to Krugman, makes Grigg a violent person.)
The closest Krugman has come to dealing with that issue was about 10 years ago (I have not found the column but remember reading it) when he wrote that there was no abuse by the IRS of taxpayers. There was no government violence, and if there was, well those on the receiving end deserved it. In other words, according to Paul Krugman, even if the government engages in unwarranted violence, as long as Democrats are in charge, we are to take it no matter what.
Notice that what he is saying is that if one does not accept the ObamaCare bill in toto
, then one wants other Americans to die for lack of medical care. To question a bill that runs 2,500 pages with much of the contents being open-ended (to be "interpreted" by the bureaucracies) is to be evil and violent, not to mention utterly selfish.
Furthermore, if one questions the extremely "liberal" use of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution, one is a violence-loving purveyor of evil. In fact, given his views of American society and capitalism before the New Deal, it would seem that he believes that life was pure hell until FDR came along with all of his alphabet-soup programs.
Krugman's logic runs into another problem: it seems that, according to a study by Arthur Brooks
, those who Krugman claims are greedy -- conservatives -- tend to give away a larger portion of their income
than do liberals. Of course, Krugman believes that the ONLY acceptable kind of "giving" comes through taxation and transfer payments. There can be NO argument here.
There is another point I believe needs to be made: most Republicans believe in and support the Welfare State. In fact, like a lot of Democrats, they support the Welfare-Warfare State and never have attempted any serious repeal of welfare (or warfare) measures when they were in power. Thus, Krugman has set up the straw man Republican when, in reality, there are no Republicans in power (except for Ron Paul) that really fit that description.
And, I only can guess that Krugman, who has smeared Ron Paul before, would claim that Rep. Paul is someone who advocates mindless political violence and murder. After all, he does believe that much of the modern state is illegitimate, so A MUST follow B. Why? Because Krugman says so.
My guess is that Krugman sees nothing polarizing about his rhetoric. People who agree with him are the Good People, and everyone else is a Bad Person. And that is the "wisdom" that comes from the august Princeton faculty these days.