Friday, October 19, 2012

Krugman's Snow Job on Economics

Thirty years ago, I saw a local TV debate in Chattanooga between the late William H. Peterson and a Marxist professor at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Phillip Giffin. Peterson had just returned from a trip to Romania, which then was living in the era of the execrable Nicolae Ceaușescu, and spoke about the poverty and misery he observed.

"But," interrupted Giffin, "There's no unemployment there."

Indeed, that is the mentality of much of the economics profession, or at least the left side of the profession, including Krugman. (No, Krugman is not a Marxist, but his Keynesian analysis is built upon many of the same foundations Marx used, including the overproduction/underconsumption paradigm.) So, I see once again that Krugman is killing trees this week to once again preach that if Barack Obama is elected, he will "create more jobs" than will Mitt Romney.

Notice that this really has nothing to do with economics per se. The Romanian regime "created jobs," although in reality, many jobs were nearly useless and the vast majority or Romanians lived in grinding poverty. Yet, we continue to hear the "creating jobs" arguments given by economists who should know better.

For most people, a job carries a transmission of income, which is why we obviously think about our jobs. However, if one thinks that a job's only use is that of an income transmitter, then one clearly does not understand employment. After all, the government could mail everyone checks for whatever amount a job would pay, and that would substitute for the income transmission.

Obviously, there would be a problem if everyone stayed home and just received a check, and it would become abundantly clear that a job is NOT just a means of providing income, but jobs also are the mechanism through which we have labor services throughout the economy, and without those service, there IS no economy. At one level, I am sure that even Paul Krugman would understand that point, but it also is clear to me that he seems to think that the importance of work really is in the income that individuals receive, and not the wealth creation itself that a job can help achieve.

For example, when interviewed about the Keystone Pipeline that Obama blocked, Krugman approved the president's actions, using environmental criteria. (Note that Krugman also praises the building of wind farms, which have their own negative environmental effects and, unlike Keystone, stay alive only through massive subsidies, tax breaks, and government requirements that electric utilities purchase power from those farms, so if one thinks that Krugman is being selective in his environmental concern, one might be correct.)

However, after announcing his opposition to Keystone, Obama then declared that increased government payments to the unemployed would have a more powerful and important economic effect than the building of an oil pipeline, and I do not recall reading a word of criticism from Krugman about that statement. Keep in mind that what Obama is saying is that essentially borrowing or printing money creates more wealth than does the application of capital in moving resources from lower-valued uses to higher-valued uses. This is stunning, for it demonstrates just how economically-illiterate Obama really is, and it also exposes people like Krugman who apparently can see no difference in printing money and creating wealth or, even worse, seem to believe that printing money actually creates wealth.

In his latest column, Krugman accuses Mitt Romney of snowing voters on jobs, asking: "But does he have a plan to create any?" That is not the right question. Instead, Krugman should be asking whether or not Romney -- or Obama, for that matter -- have any "plans" to encourage capital formation, and to let entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial firms move resources from lower-valued to higher-valued uses. Krugman's claim that Obama's record can be defended, yet Obama has done almost nothing to encourage the things I have mentioned.

(I forgot. Like Obama, Krugman believes that government can print, borrow, and subsidize an economy into a real recovery. In the end, the "plan" is called by another name: inflation.)

And what is a Paul Krugman column without at least one real howler? How about this?
Just for the record, one study concluded that America might gain two million jobs if China stopped infringing on U.S. patents and other intellectual property; this would be nice, but Mr. Romney hasn’t proposed anything that would bring about that outcome. Another study suggested that growth in the energy sector might add three million jobs in the next few years — but these were predicted gains under current policy, that is, they would happen no matter who wins the election, not as a consequence of the Romney plan.
Notice that there is no cost assumed to enforcing the intellectual property laws, and I don't know how one can extrapolate the kind of wealth creation needed for two million new jobs by the use of increased police powers, but when one is spouting rhetoric, careful thought need not intervene. Furthermore, the only significant wealth-producing portion of the energy sector is in fossil fuels, and Krugman already is on the record as saying those are evil and should be abandoned altogether. As for "creating jobs" through subsidies, apparently Krugman cannot understand that subsidies ultimately must come from those sectors of the economy that are profitable, which means that jobs are lost elsewhere.

Oh, I forgot. Being a Keynesian means that one believes government can do away with the Law of Scarcity and the Law of Opportunity Cost by fiat and with a printing press.


Tom E. Snyder said...

Krugman sold his economist's soul for a mess of political pottage.

Dinero said...

Hi William L Anderson

I've read through many of your posts.
It seems, from reading through the posts, that your only concern about Governmant deficit spending is that it may cause a burden of inflation. But have you not overlooked something. Government borrowing is deffered taxation and so even if it does not cause inflation there is still the burnen of it being a transfer of money from the taxpayer to the receipient of govenment spending.

William L. Anderson said...

Actually, I tend to look at deficits as part of Ricardian Equivalence. In other words, the real opportunity cost comes through the spending, and however we pay for it, taxation, borrowing, or printing, ultimately has a roughly-equal opportunity cost, although these costs are manifest in different ways.

Despite Krugman's claim that borrowing at Fed-induced near-zero interest rates is equivalent to "free money," in reality that is not so. There really is an opportunity cost to any action in which the government purchases resources, period.

Dinero said...

Thanks. I see . And then there are bonds un repaid at a central bank that do not invoke taxes however we still have money and purchasing power only being given to the recipients of government spending and not every individual. There is still a burden on someone. Inflation is an aggregate metric, it does not take into account who has the cash and the spending power.