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Does Paul Krugman Understand Intellectual Diversity?

Earlier this month, New York Times opinion columnist and Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote a striking column that criticized left-leaning publications that hire conservatives in the name of intellectual diversity. Krugman’s argument is simple: these efforts will fail because there aren’t any conservatives worth hiring. Kevin Williamson isn’t merely one bad apple, and the Atlantic wasn’t merely unlucky. The whole conservative barrel is rotten, and every publication that goes bobbing in it will come up with a mouthful of worms.

Is this because there aren’t any smart, talented conservatives? No, Krugman assures us—in his own field of economics, there are plenty of conservative economists with appointments at top universities and publications in top journals. The trouble is they have no influence on the modern GOP, and this state of affairs makes many of the smart, talented ones contort their positions in a bid for influence. He writes:

Am I saying that there are no conservative economists who have maintained their principles? Not at all. But they have no influence, zero, on GOP thinking. So in economics, a news organization trying to represent conservative thought either has to publish people with no constituency or go with the charlatans who actually matter.

The implied problem, as Krugman sees it, is that a liberal publication seeking to feature conservative ideas should want ideas that are both popular and high-quality. But because the modern GOP is popular and taken with low-quality ideas, a liberal publication cannot get both, so it must choose between conservative ideas that are good and conservative ideas that are popular.

But this assumption is unstable. Krugman takes it as a given that intellectual diversity holds no value for a liberal publication if the high-quality conservative ideas it seeks to elevate aren’t actually popular on the Right. He apparently thinks that intellectual diversity must benefit both sides—liberal voters hear good new ideas from their opponents, and conservative voters get the benefits of having their views included on prestigious liberal platforms like the Atlantic. Krugman is essentially saying that if you can’t do both, you should do neither.

This reasoning collapses with a moment’s reflection, for the simple reason that good conservative ideas benefit liberals whether or not they’re popular. If Krugman had said that good conservative ideas didn’t exist, he would be wrong on the merits, but his position would at least be consistent—if you don’t think you can learn anything from conservative scholarship, there’s no sense listening to its practitioners. But he’s not saying that. And this suggests that he doesn’t fully understand why intellectual diversity is worth pursuing.

Intellectual diversity addresses a fundamental problem in human cognition: we seek out information that confirms the views we already have. As Jonathan Haidt has argued, this instinct is well-adapted to creating intra-group solidarity, which is useful when competing for power with other groups. But if the goal is to seek the truth, it’s poison. If everyone in your group shares the same biases, that group will block new information that doesn’t conform to those biases. Since no one is right 100 percent of the time, this dynamic guarantees that falsehoods will persist.1

One solution is to attempt to purge individuals of their biases. But cognitive psychologists don’t yet understand how to do this. The only method that reliably solves the confirmation bias problem is to create groups made up of individuals with different biases. In such an environment, countervailing biases checks one another, prodding at weak points and raising questions a colleague didn’t think to ask. This dynamic is highly adapted to truth-seeking, because it forces every person to justify their biases on grounds other than tribalism.

Once we understand intellectual diversity this way, we can clearly see that left-leaning publications do their readers a service by elevating ideas that challenge prevailing assumptions. Progressive orthodoxies have often been wrong: entire generations of the Left’s most accomplished thinkers devoted themselves to Marxism. No progressive should feel confident that their side’s leading lights are truth personified. Instead, they should wonder what other falsehoods are lurking behind the group confirmation bias.

While exposure to high-quality ideas is an unqualified good, inclusion is not. Inclusion is often valuable, but it is not always so. There are no benefits to including people that are objectively wrong—a university astronomy department should not hire a flat-earther in the name of inclusion. There are ideas that are objectively wrong in politics, too. It is harder to identify them, but the moral horrors of the past confirm that they exist. If a segment of the electorate suddenly embraced unadulterated Stalinism, the harms of inclusion would outweigh the benefits. The same goes for fascism and the worst ideas of the conservative tradition.

Other commentators have assumed, like Krugman, that elevating reformicons, moderates, and other idiosyncratic thinkers isn’t worthwhile because Republican voters don’t actually care what people like Ross Douthat have to say. This is partially the fault of intellectual diversity defenders who market the concept as a way to ‘understand what the other side is thinking’ and shatter the echo chambers that led to Trump’s election. That project has great social value, but it’s not the same value that intellectual diversity is engineered to create.

Liberals should read Breitbart because it’s important to understand the grievances of a large percentage of the American electorate. Ross Douthat should be read for entirely different reasons—his substantive critique of social progressivism has great intellectual merit, and a progressivism forced to rebut it will be a better progressivism.

John Stuart Mill once remarked approvingly that the Catholic Church appoints a devil’s advocate to argue against the canonization of a potential saint. “The holiest of men,” Mill wrote, “cannot be admitted to posthumous honors until all that the devil could say against him is known and weighed.” But the Church didn’t appoint the devil’s advocate in order to ensure that the devil’s supporters would feel included. Nor did it seek to better understand the devil. It sought the only thing that intellectual diversity can reliably give us: a better understanding of the truth.

 

Nicholas Phillips is a research associate at Heterodox Academy and president of the NYU School of Law Federalist Society. Follow him on Twitter at @czar_nicholas_

Reference:

1 “Race and the Race for the White House: On Social Research in the Age of Trump” al Gharbi, M. Am Soc (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-018-9373-5

67 Comments

  1. Nick says

    It blows my mind that people still take Krugman seriously on any issue.

    • Aleph says

      I agree. He’s a misleading impostor.

      The Nobel Prize of economics is nothing less than a mundane leftist platform conferring undue academic authorities to undeserving agitators.

      • ga gamba says

        The Nobel Prize of economics is nothing less than a mundane leftist platform conferring undue academic authorities to undeserving agitators.

        I’ll disagree with you because 13 Nobels (of 49) have been awarded to 29 of the University of Chicago’s economists. If you want to make a Marxist foam at the mouth praise Milton Friedman. The “Chicago School” of economic theory certainly isn’t leftwing; it is libertarian and globalist. Keep in mind until very recently mainstream conservatives were proponents of expanding global trade, though not of expanding global governance and institutions. The left also despises the Chicago boys, led by economist Arnold Harberger, because so many advised Chile’s Pinochet on how to rebuild the economy – Allende is a darling of the left. Post-Allende Chile was unique in ’70s and ’80s South America being the only one that embraced trade, and today’s leftists proclaim to be free traders. Much of the rest practiced import substitution, erected high tariffs, restricted capital movement, and mismanaged their countries into hyper inflation and despair. The left and right have morphed in ways that would have been impossible to predict prior to the 90s. I think Clinton and Blair are responsible for much of the change through the creation of the neoliberal left, and they were pulled to the right by Reagan and Thatcher, respectively.

        Here’s an article about two economists who analysed all the winners and they conclude the Committee favours those who advocatefree market theories.

        The first [docrine], which they simply term “economics,” is the study of people’s interactions with free markets, drawing heavily on abstract theory, mathematical models, and the assumption that people will act in rational self-interest. The second doctrine, which they refer to as “social democracy,” concerns how the government provides for its citizens and focuses more on the public-policy decisions they make to do so.

        According to Offer and Söderberg, the Nobel Prize in Economics favors the former doctrine to the almost complete exclusion of the latter; only one laureate who has focused mainly on social democracy has won (Gunnar Myrdal, in 1974). Though both liberal and conservative economists have received the prize, the award has continually reinforced the primacy of the free market.

        As I mentioned above, even today’s centre left prefer neoliberal free-market policies. Though left versus right is one lens to view things, another lens, which may be more appropriate here, is globalist versus nativist. This transcends the left-right divide kind of in the way sex-negative radfems, who are hard left, find common ground with Evangelicals, who are hard right, on certain subjects such as pornography and prostitution.

        • Samuel Skinner says

          “The left and right have morphed in ways that would have been impossible to predict prior to the 90s.”

          The New Left was in the 1960s. Central planning wasn’t going to work so the left needed to find an ideology that was (roughly) compatible with the market.

          • ga gamba says

            Pre-dates that if you want to get technical about it – check out Macmillan’s Middle Way from ’38. There are the roots, and then when it bloomed, and my comment is about the later. As a platform for US Democrats it took Carter’s loss in ’80, Mondale’s catastrophe in ’84, and Dukakis’s failure ’88 to cast aside the old FDR leftism. Clinton’s Third Way New Democrats was its manifestation in ’92, and Blair jumped on board when he took over as Labour leader in ’94 – it should be mentioned that he was very much influenced by Bob Hawke, PM of Australia, probably more so than by Clinton. Blair likely had a tougher fight than Clinton to alter Labour’s platform to shift it to the centre, but being out of power for almost two decades will force a party to reflect and change to the new reality; of course the centre in the US and the UK differ. Had Kinnock not cleared out the hard left Militant, a powerful Trotskyite faction of the Midlands and the North, I think Blair would have not come to power. Nine year later Blair was very explicit that he was giving up socialism but taking on social justice, and we see what hell that’s wrought.

        • Aleph says

          My English may be unreadable, but I used the word ‘is’ for present. No need to fetch old examples. See the, say, twenty last ones, with Krug’ in the middle.

          Thaler is a good example of mundane near-orwellian leftist to me. He never considers personnal responsibilities, and see no boundaries to the state’s. Liberty killer.

          My stance is that it’s a political prize, and by now, it has a leftist agenda.

          Same thing can be said about the peace prize, but always with a delirious agenda. No soldier ever had it, for instance. That is a mundane blindspot about what peace is. Churchill didn’t do a thing for peace? But a bloody terrorist and a never-did-anything-yet Barack Osama were awarded.

      • I agree with Krugman on economic issues largely, but I could be wrong, which is precisely why I want to constantly be challenged with the best arguments against my point of view. With statements like “a mundane leftist platform conferring undue academic authorities to undeserving agitators” you are being just as dismissive of the possibility you may be wrong as Krugman is. I don’t see how “no, leftists are the real demons” is any better than what the dismissive left is doing.

        • Samuel Skinner says

          If you reject that possibility, you incentive people to be as extreme as possible in order to get what they want.

          • Adam says

            This is true of both left and right at the moment. Krugmen makes a point about populist Republicans in the media but neglects to mention that getting rid of them all just leaves the space full of insane populist Leftists that are just as bad as the Republicans he is complaining about.

            But that’s ok, it’s a case of ‘it’s fine when my tribe do it’? Showing that Krugman himself is as bad as the Conservatives he’s bashing.

          • Samuel Skinner says

            Except the Republicans aren’t that extreme. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 2003. 40% of the white population was opposed to inter-racial marriage in 2002. I could go on, but the Republican extremists positions map to the 2010s.

        • Dean says

          Brian,

          First, I commend you on your desire to “constantly be challenged with the best arguments” against your point of view. Of course, we should all be doing that as much as possible.

          For an idea-based source that, in general, runs counter to Krugman, and Keynesian economics, I recommend checking out the Mises Institute website. Additionally, Tom Woods and Robert Murphy have a weekly podcast called “Contra Krugman”, which directly addresses Krugman’s New York Times columns.

          Those two sources are not the only ones, of course, but you will find that they are serious and do not engage in ad-hominem arguments.

    • Fluffy Buffalo says

      Hmmm… maybe it’s because he was consistently right in his predictions about economic policy throughout an era where a lot of other pundits got things wildly wrong? Maybe it’s because, as opposed to other pundits, he always has a couple of charts and sketches ready to explain the underlying data and the reasoning he uses to arrive at these predictions?

      • Carlton says

        Krugman was wrong about practically everything, and virtually none of his predictions were correct. Including, most infamously, his call that internet companies were just a fad. Krugman is a joke.

        • Fluffy Buffalo says

          Really? Let’s see… Krugman warned of a real estate crash, which happened. He argued that the Fed’s zero-interest policy could not lead to inflation under the given circumstances, and it didn’t. He argued that the forced austerity policy in southern Europe would be a terribly inefficient way of restoring competitiveness, and lead to high unemployment and terrible suffering… and it did. He argued that Gov. Brownback’s low-tax policy in Kansas would lead to a fiscal crisis with no appreciable stimulus to the economy, and that happened. He stated again and again that Republicans only pretend to care about the deficit when it comes to cutting social programs, and don’t give a damn when it comes to cutting taxes for the rich, which has been shown to be true. And on and on.
          I’d say he has a pretty good track record… and a study from a few years ago agrees: socrates.bmcc.cuny.edu/jsamuels/math150/article-who_makes_good_predictions.pdf

          • Kurt says

            Yes, Krugman is practically infallible in the prediction business. Also, he never allows his emotions or tribal affiliations to cloud his judgement. I, for one, am sure glad I liquidated all my stock holding first thing on Nov 9 2016 based on his prognostications.

            Without his prescient and flawless prediction of the business depression stock market crash we were about to experience due to Trump’s election, I would have way too much money in my brokerage account by now.

            The man is a hack, plain and simple – and thoroughly predictable. Perhaps there was a time when he was capable of economic reasoning and scholarship. But he long ago decided that hating for the benefit of the NY Times far-gone readership was more fun and lucrative.

            When will the day come when Mr. Krugman decides that some debts should be paid before more borrowing occurs? Never, of course. In the long run we are all dead, after all.

    • CZ Marks says

      I’m not sure why. Because Krugman has been both contrarian and right about a host of issues over the years. I’m thinking particularly about his writing about liquidity traps, the zero lower bound on interest rates, and why stimulus spending in the wake of the 2008 financial crises would not lead to inflation, even as governments around the world forgetting the lessons of the great depression and repeating the mistakes of the 1930s.

      He is also disciplined as a commentator, largely restricting his writing to areas where his expertise in economics comes to bear. Yes, he points out the GOP has, in general, become a party of know-nothings (which it has), but that criticism is grounded in detailed explanation of why specific GOP policy proposals (to the extent they even exist anymore) are nonsensical.

      You don’t have to agree with everything Krugman says, but if you are an intellectually serious person capable of evaluating arguments in good faith, you should definitely take his ideas seriously. Because he has made predictions that were later proven right over and over again.

      • Samuel Skinner says

        I don’t take Krugman seriously because you can determine which political party is in power by his published op-eds explaining either spending is good or deficits are bad.

        • Bill says

          Exactly. Had HRC won the electoral college and implemented the exact same policies as Trump, Krugman would be touting how astute she is and how these policies were the best possible options for the time. But because Trump won and implemented them, they are heinous and will cause old people, kids, and disabled to starve/die/suffer/whatever.

        • CZ Marks says

          Then you either haven’t read Krugman or aren’t capable of understanding him. Because he, in fact, explains in great detail exactly when and why governments should run deficits. (Basically, he holds the Keynesian view that government should pay down the deficit when when the economy is doing well and spend money to stimulate the economy during recessions.)

          Perhaps you are mistaking him with GOP politicians who consistently favor cutting spending and reducing deficits when democrats are in office (regardless of economic conditions) but then invariably pass budget busting tax cuts for the rich as soon as they themselves are in power.

          • Samuel Skinner says

            And if there ever was a time where his policy didn’t match which political party had power, we might even believe that.

            Also your example for the GOP isn’t hypocrisy. The GOP wants to cut spending out of office and when in office they also want to cut spending. The policy they recommend stays the same. Now, you might believe that conflicts with deficit reduction, but they believe that in the long run low taxes boost productivity and so increase income.

            A good test to see if their beliefs are accurate is to look at monarchies because the ruler is planning for the long run. Does Dubai have a higher or lower tax rate then the US?

          • Kurt says

            Re: “he holds the Keynesian view that government should pay down the deficit ”

            Please provide a reference to an instance when Dr. Krugman declared that the time was right to pay down the debt [there’s really no such thing as paying down the deficit]. When and where has he ever got up and said something like “Now, while the economy is strong, we must cut spending to the point where the goverent is running a surplus and use that surplus to service the debt I advocated running up during the lean times. After all, only a fool would think a nation could continue to increase its debt forever without dire consequences”.

            I’ll wait.

      • Victoria says

        @CZ Marks

        Thank you for an unintended exemplar of unexamined bias that speaks to need for ideological diversity. Since you are clearly familiar with Krugman’s work, it suggests deliberate dishonesty when you try to laughably claim he is “disciplined as a commentator.”

        He has a routine output at the NYT that has little to do with his knowledge of economics. Here’s a perfect example of Krugman’s reckless partisan bigotry and shameful use of moral denunciation to circumvent engaging opponent’s arguments:

        https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/opinion/krugman-death-by-ideology.html

        The reason you can’t recognize this glaring fault in his writing is that you yourself exhibit such prejudice as demonstrated by your sweeping “know-nothings” smear.

        Actual studies of scientific knowledge between the two main parties show comparable scientific literacy overall, just as Democrats and Republicans have comparable mean IQs (with independents having a mean IQ several points lower than partisans).

        As some interested in behavioral and population genetics, I can assure you that the most ignorant and hostile people are on the ‘progressive’ left, often ostensibly highly-educated individuals. Further as a passionate conservationist, I also find that Democratic enthusiasm for ecological sustainability falters when it challenges the neoliberal paradigm (that is they become exactly like Republicans who deny anthropogenic climate change due to economic convenience).

        • Paolo says

          Hi Victoria, I read entirely the Krugman piece you linked, and it may be me but I couldn’t find where he fails to engage the arguments of the opposer of where he manifests bigotry. Sure the piece is morally charged, but it seems to balance the tone of the claims of ‘no deaths’ made by Romney et al. The presentin of the data, though, seems nuanced. Could you point to what you mean?

        • CZ Marks says

          In the piece you linked, Krugman criticizes GOP efforts to replace Medicare with a voucher system and calls out leading Republicans for dishonestly describing their proposed reforms. Krugman does write extensively about healthcare reform, which is largely an economic issue, and he is well qualified to do so. But you will rarely find him purporting to offer detailed analyses of foreign policy issues or other topics outside his expertise.

          As an evolutionary biologist, I share your concern about the anti-science views of some on the far left as well as those on the right. I also deplore the regressive and authoritarian leftism that has taken hold in the humanities departments of many college campuses. At present, however, those views have little influence on mainstream politics. Meanwhile, the anti-science views of the Republican party are a major threat to global sustainability. Under the current republican administration, the Environmental Protection Agency is headed by a corrupt advocate for the oil and gas industry who also happens to be a creationist as well as a global warming denier. Another global warming denier, heads NASA, which is responsible for collecting Earth-Science data that is critical for fighting climate change. And the Department of Energy, which under Obama was headed by Stephen Chu, a Nobel winning nuclear physicist is now headed by Rick Perry! Since you are a passionate conservationist, I’m sure you find these facts as troubling as I do.

          And the same pattern plays out in other areas of the government: when Republicans come to power, highly qualified professionals across the government get replaced with political hacks who are connected to and serve the interest of Republican donors. Thats why, when Hurricane Katrina hit during the Bush administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was headed by someone whose major qualification for the job was his experience breeding Arabian stallions.

          So, yes, characterizing the modern GOP as a party of know-nothings is broad, but it is also perfectly apt.

          • Samuel Skinner says

            “At present, however, those views have little influence on mainstream politics. ”

            The lefts adoption of the blank slate (going from ‘there is no affect from genes’ to there is no affect from genes or culture’) affects education, racial laws, policing, the prison system, women’s right, family court, immigration… do you want me to go on?

            “Meanwhile, the anti-science views of the Republican party are a major threat to global sustainability. ”

            The Republicans aren’t the ones attacking nuclear power or the space program. You are not going to get actual sustainability except through those.

            ” as well as a global warming denier.”

            The right believes the scientists and media are lying to them. They believe this because they can see the scientists and media lying to them.

            “when Republicans come to power, highly qualified professionals across the government get replaced with political hacks who are connected to and serve the interest of Republican donors. ”

            Civil servants are an interest group that is opposed to the Republican party. You are not going to have civil servants loyal to a political party that’s program is less government.

          • Kurt says

            Re: “I also deplore the regressive and authoritarian leftism that has taken hold in the humanities departments of many college campuses. At present, however, those views have little influence on mainstream politics”

            Where I live a local sports radio station holds an annual Preposterous Statement Tournament, where the most ridiculous utterances of the last year face off in brackets until a champion is crowned.

            If Quillette held a similar competition, you’d be a favorite with that gem.

            Are you serously asserting that the lunacy gripping, not just the humanities, but also the generaladministration of nearly every college and university on the continent is having “little influence on mainstream politics”?

            Where do you think Obama got the idea that lying and lying (about consequential things, like mushroom clouds over Tel Aviv, not porn stars ) and sending pallets of cash to Iran in the middle of the night was good foriegn policy? On campus, of course. Maybe in Derrick Bell’s class.

          • Victoria says

            @CZ Marks

            “But you will rarely find him purporting to offer detailed analyses of foreign policy issues or other topics outside his expertise.”

            You admit I am correct when you qualify your statement as to what he does vis-à-vis “detailed analyses.” My point is he offers a large volume short on analysis, and long on moralistic, tribalistic denunciation.

            I oppose the Trump administration basically categorically on environmental issues and do find the situation you note “troubling.” Since ecologically-unsustianable economic policy pervades the Democratic Party, even if intertwined with ethnic demagoguery rather than pure neoliberalism, I don’t see the situation as meaningfully improved by them being in power.

            “At present, however, those views have little influence on mainstream politics.”

            This is farcical. Neo-Marxist identity politics are at the heart of the left abandoning its once core identity as a platform dedicated to protecting domestic labor from unfair competition to a de facto open borders agenda. The left’s globalist-utopian vision, as again distinct from a pure neoliberal view, is heavily centered on group-level racial power dynamics. This has been painfully evident in the rise of Critical Race Theory in legacy media since circa 2012.

            In terms of direct policy initiatives, neo-Marxist views were central to the Obama administrations approaches to campus sexual assault (e.g. denial of due process) and inter-racial school discipline disparity (e.g. assumption that neither biological or cultural factors inform a disparity).

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          ‘….As some interested in behavioral and population genetics, I can assure you that the most ignorant and hostile people are on the ‘progressive’ left, often ostensibly highly-educated individuals….’

          Took me a while to realize that these sentences are a coded reference to the race and IQ controversy. As with climate science and evolution science, at least in the US, a person’s position on ‘race science’ tends to assort with political ideology. I’m not going to review the voluminous criticisms online and in print on ‘race science,’ but it is worth pointing out the following:

          Even if we accept as factual all the claims by Charles Murray et al. on the genetics of IQ, these studies are descriptive, not prescriptive. That is, they study IQ in a limited range of environments, which means that the results cannot predict the results of future developments in early childhood intervention–better nutrition, more exposure to language and the arts, etc.. Also as an aside, it is logistically impossible to randomly assign human genotypes to environments, which would be necessary for the conclusions to be valid. That is not a minor quibble.

          The worst part of all this is that Murray et al. argue that early childhood intervention [or even prenatal intervention] is pointless because of genetics! That is completely false. In reality, certain genetic errors of metabolism that can cause mental retardation are largely treatable if caught early enough, whereas other genetic causes of retardation like Down syndrome are essentially untreatable. There is no fixed rule as to when intervention will or will not work.

          The best approach is to try lots of different types of early intervention in somewhat randomized groups of children and see what works. Unfortunately, the claims of Murray et al. are used by those on the right to reduce government spending on education and early childhood programs, instead of increasing the spending.

          • Samuel Skinner says

            “That is, they study IQ in a limited range of environments, which means that the results cannot predict the results of future developments in early childhood intervention–better nutrition, more exposure to language and the arts, etc.. ”

            Yes, because scientists never would think to do those studies. It has been over a century and this is the most highly replicated work in psychology.

            In case your curious, they used twin studies to work out the degree of heritability for personality and IQ traits. Fun fact- the parental and peer environmental impact on personality is between 0 and 5% while the genetic impact is about 40%. IQ of course has an extremely high level of heritability (I believe it is about 80%; busy at the moment).

            Most of the common complaints have been checked; if you are curious you can go and take a look at the work scientists have done.

            “Unfortunately, the claims of Murray et al. are used by those on the right to reduce government spending on education and early childhood programs, instead of increasing the spending.”

            That would require evidence education actually makes you smarter. It makes you more capable of passing certain IQ tests, but the ability to pass IQ tests is not why people care about IQ tests.

          • James Lee says

            @Jack b Nimble

            You obviously have little (or zero) knowledge about what Charles Murray has actually researched and written, which nicely puts you in the same category of almost all the other leftists who “critique” Murray.

            Murray certainly doesn’t say there isn’t a role for environment, nor that early childhood experiences don’t play a role in later development. If you read The Bell Curve, you may be “shocked” to find out that he argues that data shows that SES does impact many life outcomes independent of IQ.

            I don’t believe that Murray conducted any studies that show no long term improvements in IQ from early intervention government programs like Head Start. However, that’s what the relevant studies have shown. Is this a good result for society? No. But life doesn’t conform to how we would like it to be.

            Additionally, it may be possible in the future to genetically enhance IQ, which could theoretically greatly improve the health and life outcomes of millions of people who currently face far greater challenges than the majority- challenges that many in the majority pretend don’t really exist.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            Stop treating intelligence and the heritability of IQ scores as the holy grail of human biology!

            The fact that some people obsess over this topic [but don’t care much about the heritability of cancer, diabetes, depression, obesity, etc. and other human characteristics that really MATTER in peoples lives] suggests an ideological motivation.

            Here are a few more facts:

            Replicating a flawed experimental design doesn’t improve the validity of the data!

            Without randomization [and how are adoption agencies supposed to do this, even supposing they were willing to be part of a scientific experiment??], IQ studies have an unmeasured GENOTYPE BY ENVIRONMENT covariance term. That is basic statistics!

            Since covariances can be positive or negative in value, that means that heritability estimates from identical twin studies could be OVERestimates or UNDERestimates–there is no way to know. This problem can’t be solved by hand-waving. That is why randomization across environments [or common-garden experiments] is the ‘gold standard’ of experimental design in classical quantitative genetics.

            Human geneticists WOULD randomize across environments if they could, but they can’t. They use twin data because the data exist, without the need to spend millions of dollars of non-existent grant dollars, not because the twin data are ideal or even suitable for the purpose of estimating heritability. Hence the hand-waving.

            Apart from the covariance problem, heritability estimates from identical twin studies include a non-additive genetic variance term that is unaffected by either artificial selection or natural selection. That means that heritability values from twin data tell us little about human intelligence has evolved in the past or might change in the future. That is another reason why most biologists are SO uninterested in, and unimpressed by, human IQ heritability studies.

            Will genomic data solve these problems? Maybe so for non-additive variance, but probably not for the covariance problem.

          • Samuel Skinner says

            “Stop treating intelligence and the heritability of IQ scores as the holy grail of human biology!”

            They aren’t. They are a wonderful proxy to discover people who are incapable of coming to rationale conclusions due to political ideology.

            “The fact that some people obsess over this topic [but don’t care much about the heritability of cancer, diabetes, depression, obesity, etc. and other human characteristics that really MATTER in peoples lives] suggests an ideological motivation.”

            Because one informs public policy and the others don’t to remotely the same degree. Which is important when talking about public policy.

            “Replicating a flawed experimental design doesn’t improve the validity of the data!”

            Ah, philosophy. The discipline that cannot prove people need to eat food to live.

            “Without randomization [and how are adoption agencies supposed to do this, even supposing they were willing to be part of a scientific experiment??], IQ studies have an unmeasured GENOTYPE BY ENVIRONMENT covariance term. That is basic statistics!”

            This has actually been done (it was the 50s, they did lots of crazy stuff then)-the Minnesota trans-racial adoption study. It involved black, white and Korean orphans.

            If you are referring to twins, they used to be split up because adoption agencies were willing to be part of scientific experiments (again, the 50s). So you can compare the difference between twins raised together (and hence similar environment) and twins raised separately.

            “That means that heritability values from twin data tell us little about human intelligence has evolved in the past or might change in the future. ”

            The Chewbacca defense. I thought we, as a civilization, had moved past this.

            “That is another reason why most biologists are SO uninterested in, and unimpressed by, human IQ heritability studies.”

            Anthropology is the study of humans. Biologists mostly study non-human life.

      • ADM64 says

        I suggest you read Niall Ferguson’s writings on “Krugtron the Invincible.”. They comprehensively document the many, many subjects on which Krugman has been wrong, even as he publicly claimed not to be.

        • CZ Marks says

          Wait, is the same Niall Ferguson who famously criticized Krugman for arguing (correctly) that stimulus spending in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis would not lead to runaway inflation or a Greek-style debt crisis (as Ferguson predicted)? The same guy who in 2011 wrote an article called “The Great Inflation Of The 2010s,” in which he said, “Yes, folks, double-digit inflation is back”?

          We can debate Krugman’s track record, but there is nothing to debate about Ferguson. Next to his misleading presentation of economic data, being consistently wrong is the thing he is best known for.

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    • ga gamba says

      Krugman the economist’s Nobel-winning paper isn’t controversial and, updating Ricardo’s comparative advantage theory, offers some new insights to global trade using his core-periphery model. It seeks to answer many question such as why do countries that are very similar economically and technologically, such as Germany and the US, trade? Both are able to produce a wide array of similar, if not exact, goods, from pencils and razors to cars and aeroplanes. Krugman was at the forefront of what is now called new economic geography.

      Ricardo’s basket of goods was long in the tooth; it was commodities, manufactures such as textiles and footwear, and light machinery such as looms, sewing machines, and cotton gin – the products of his era. Obviously trade today is much more than that, and for developed states the trade of services is very important. When we look at geography and trade, we tend to think of deep water ports, navigable rivers, and the like. Yet, with fiber-optic telecommunication systems transversing the oceans, we see massive business process outsourcing (BPO) centres where Indians and Filipinos operate not only call centres, but perform accountancy, legal and medical transcription, and many other services. Under Ricardian theory, which hadn’t considered this because the technology didn’t exist (the first transoceanic telegraph cable was laid decades after Richardo’s death), American or British providers of back office services should have comparative advantage that insulates them from overseas competition, yet go to Manila and you’ll find tower blocks filled with Filipino lawyers who perform legal services such as research for US law firms.

      Even technological advances in containerised logistics bring markets that were once on the periphery into the core. Highly perishable produce can be shipped long distances, and this erodes the comparative advance held by farms and orchards geographically closer to cores.

      There is much more to new economic geography than what I’ve mentioned. BTW, many, if not most, of Krugman’s critics come from the field of geography.

  3. Pizza Pete says

    I think all this is right. That said, what should the heuristic be on the Left to include the best conservative voices in dialogue? Because of worsening confirmation bias and perceptual distortions I don’t see how this process happens. I am similarly disappointed by conservatives not engaging the best liberal voices, albeit for different reasons: progressive orthodoxies congeal so quickly that it becomes impossible to find anyone prominent who deviates from a smalls set of dictates on any particular issue.

  4. There are a lot of things that Krugman doesn’t understand… he’s on the NYT roster because they need some food for readers who enjoy the lunatic fringe and farce.

  5. KD says

    Of course Krugman understands intellectual diversity. Intellectual diversity is a threat to the groupthink he wants to inculcate on the unsuspecting public.

  6. Emmanuel says

    What Krugman does not seem to understand is that the popularity of an idea depends more on the visibility and support given to that idea by institutions such as the media and the universities than on the quality of that idea (a good quality idea being an idea supported by facts and logic and which proves effective when applied in practice).
    Scholars whose works can only be described as low-quality such as Judith Butler or Edward Said have achieved huge popularities because the academic world and the media were on their side. I believe those examples are a good proof that the popularity of an idea has nothing to do with its intellectual merits.
    Once you realize that, it seems obvious that if a “good idea” is not given any visibility by the relevant institutions, it has no chance of becoming popular while “bad ideas” which receive institutional support can triumph.
    The problem in that situation would rather be : who is qualified to make the distinction between bad ideas and good ideas? And this is why intellectual diversity and debate matter : allowing people who don’t share your worldview as a default position forces you to support your idea with arguments.

    • Bill says

      Gee, you seem to be pointing out that flat-earth was a bad idea receiving immense visibility and support from the relevant institutions…you mean, Krugman is a variant of a flat earther?

      • Bill says

        I was being sarcastic, a couple of tags got removed in the post.

    • Pena says

      If we add together the claims that good ideas need publicity/institutional support, that there are no academics within Republicans who are both influential and smart and that the left practically doesn’t allow right-wing opinions in their institutions such as most of the media, should we draw the conclusion that the stupidity of Republican party is in part caused by the left-leaning media? If the media doesn’t support sensible republicans then the less-sensible charlatans have easier time taking over the party.

      • Emmanuel says

        The popularity of an idea (especially among intellectuals) and its actual intellectual qualities are often unrelated. Marxism looks like a good example of that, in my opinion and probably in the opinion of everybody who starved to death because of marxist economics.

        The big problem with Krugman’s way of thinking is that an idea will never become popular if you don’t give it any public visibility. In the end his logic is circular : good conservative ideas are unpopular which means they should not receive any media attention which means they will never become more popular…

    • ^ This ^

      Saying good conservative ideas aren’t worthy of attention because nobody is paying attention to them is a tautology.

  7. Nick says

    Krugman is a partisan hack. The fact that there’s people on here touting his credentials proves the point of the article. He can’t even form a coherent argument without descending into partisan politics. Who cares what’s good for liberals or conservatives. What’s good for the country is what’s important. It’s time liberals realize they are the cause of this problem. They are the root of it. You control all the sense making institutions and half of policy ones and globally dominate all avenues of power. Progressive ideas have fallen flat on their face in the past 20 years starting with the housing crash (caused by progressive housing policies pushing banks to make bad loans, not that the banks minded much) all the way up to the Arab spring and the migration disiaster. That’s not even mentioning the current state of higher education and the overall rise in extreme partisanship and tribalism thanks in large part to identity politics (thank you progressives). So in short, I don’t, and no one should, care how Krugman or any other partisan hack feels about giving conservative voices a platform. It needs to be done. Period. End of discussion.

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  9. LOL – intellectual fleas criticizing Paul Krugman. Just another day at Quilbert.

    • Aunt Fritzi says

      Better than the intellectual parasites suggesting he’s correct.

    • Emmanuel says

      When we criticize Krugman, we use arguments and ideas to support our view and explain why we believe he is wrong. You insult people who don’t share your opinion without attempting to explain why they are wrong.

      • There hardly seems to be any point in arguing with people associated with Quillette, the Federalist Society and Heterodox Academy. Where does one begin with people who publish in hopes of gaining a plutocratic patron to get on that wingnut welfare gravy train funded by the Koch brothers or the Mercer family? No, I’ve expressed my contempt and I am content.

        BTW – Krugman has great things to say about wingnut welfare but I fear anything he says falls on deaf brains here.

        https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/wingnut-welfare-and-work-incentives/

    • @Nancy, are you seriously using ad hominems to accuse your interlocutors of lack of intellectual rigor? ??

      • Funny how alt-right Quilletters who claim to adore free speech and intellectual diversity have absolutely nothing to say about the revelation that the Koch brothers buy influence at George Mason University.

        Your hypocrisy is so BLATANT. Who do you think you’re kidding? If it turned out that George Soros was doing something like this, you all would never STFU about it. There would be more articles in Quillette about that than even glowing hagiographies of Jordan Peterson or outrage over a corporation operating under at-will employment laws martyring poor James Damore.

        Nobody takes you seriously except other wingnuts.

        “As early as 1990, entities controlled by the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch were given a seat on a committee to pick candidates for a professorship that they funded, the records show. Similar arrangements that continued through 2009 gave donors decision-making roles in selecting candidates for key economics appointments at the Mercatus Center, a Koch-funded think tank on campus that studies markets and regulation. The appointments, which also created faculty lines at George Mason, were steered to professors who, like the Kochs, embraced unconstrained free markets.”

        https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/05/us/koch-donors-george-mason.html

        • Samuel Skinner says

          The altright opposes libertarians so I’m not sure where you are getting the idea they’d be fine with this comes from.

          • There is a huge overlap between libertarians and the alt-right. And of course Claire Lehmann, founder of Quillette, until last year was a contributor to the alt-right Rebel Media, home of alt-right Gavin McInnes, Milo Yiannopolous and Mike “Pizzagate” Cernovich.

          • Samuel Skinner says

            The overlap is that the altright recruits from libertarians.

            You appear to be talking about something different from me. I’m talking about the ideological movement, and you are talking about alternative to the mainstream right. Shock jocks don’t really have coherent political positions; they are theater, not policy.

        • Yeah Phillips knows how to get himself on the wingnut welfare gravy train. Federalist Society baby, they take care of their own. Phillips could be set for life by sucking up so much to the Koch brothers and their phony concern for “diversity” –

          “More recently, in 2016, executives of the Federalist Society, a conservative national organization of lawyers, served as agents for a $20 million gift from an anonymous donor, and were given the right to terminate installments of the gift at their discretion. Emails disclosed by the university show that Federalist Society officials were also involved in hiring discussions and had suggested a student for admission. In turn, a professor at the law school wrote the society asking for help securing recommendations for prestigious federal judicial clerkships for students active in the society.”

          And if the Koch brothers don’t work out, well the Richard Mellon Scaife foundation AND the Mercers are donors to the Federalist Society.

          If you are a right-wing public intellectual in the US you are pretty much guaranteed to be working for the Koch brothers, one way or another.

          • Samuel Skinner says

            So there is zero funding by corporations for social conservatives?

          • Doug says

            Nancy, your sputtering, impotent selective outrage is adorable. Did you actually stamp your feet as you wrote these?

  10. doug deeper says

    Why does Nick Phillips fall for Krugman’s claim that good conservative economic ideas have no influence on the GOP? Because Krugman says so? I am one of an increasing number of highly informed voters that believe strongly in the causal effect of Trump’s policies, positions and negotiating posturing for moving most economic indicators strongly upward. Krugman’s arrogant claim is absurd on its face. Krugman cannot differentiate between a good or bad conservative idea. He probably rarely ever talks to conservative economists. Why would a good conservative economist waste his time with a partisan hack like Krugman?

    From The Hill:
    “The Wall Street Journal asked 68 business, financial and academic economists who was responsible for the strengthening of the economy, and most “suggested Mr. Trump’s election deserves at least some credit” for the upturn.”
    A majority said the president had been “somewhat” or “strongly” positive for job creation, gross domestic product growth and the rising stock market.
    The pros cite the White House’s push for lighter regulation and the recent tax bill as critical to a pro-growth environment; more than 90 percent of the group thought the tax bill would boost GDP expansion over the next two years.”

    Given the leftist stranglehold on all academics, it is unlikely any, including conservative economics profs, would ever state they like Trump. Can one even imagine such a thing – antifa and BLM would destroy him and the college admin would stand behind the terrorists.

    Nick, why did you fall for a fallacious Krugman assumption?

  11. Rohit J Parikh says

    Far too many of the comments are about Krugman and far too few about the main issue here. And about the main issue, Phillips is right. Liberals need to expose themselves to intelligent conservatives (who Krugman admits do exist) and that need is independent of whether these intelligent conservatives are listened to by the average Republican.

    • @Rohit, while only garnering a couple sentences in the article, I think the other point is even stronger; liberals should be familiar with average republicans’ *actual* arguments and concerns, even (or perhaps, especially) if they aren’t intellectually rigorous. Calling trump voters morons (if they’re being charitable), or more often bigots, completely disengages the conversation and makes them incapable of persuading anyone because they don’t even know what conservatives believe to argue against. That repubs’ underlying logic is often so weak that it is ripe for persuasive argument makes the liberal ad hominems the more unconscionable.

    • Samuel Skinner says

      Why would they do that? If people with right wing opinion get fired or socially suffer, the rational thing for each individual to do is to be as left wing as possible inside the Overton Window. Since each individual voter has no affect on the election, they have no reason to attempt to develop rational views, but merely mouth whatever platitudes are in fashion to prevent from being unpersoned.

  12. Bill Haywood says

    So there is no difference between printing Dwight Eisenhower and Michael Flynn? The distinction I think Krugman is making is between fact-based conservatives who try to reason soundly, vs. anti-intellectualism. He points to a real dilemma. Publications have to maintain an audience, but if the conservatives who have large followings do not even believe in science, what’s the point of engaging with them? I suppose it is good to occasionally be informed of the latest iteration of birthers, but diversity for diversity’s sake just just gives you yet another night of listening to your uncle’s crackpot theories.

    • Samuel Skinner says

      Anti-intellectualism is a rational response to the insanity of our current class of intellectuals. You know, the people currently competing over pronoun usage. As for not believing in science, that is nonsense. Conservatives ‘believe in’ science, they just don’t trust liberals because they know liberals will lie to them whenever it suits them.

      For birthers, I should point out that is the PC branding of ‘we can’t trust Obama because he isn’t one of us’. Guess which group of people got the short end of the stick from Obama?

  13. Anon says

    A special case of central bank regulation, not a great skill at predicting future inflation, is the better explanation why the $4 T so called stimulus increase in the money supply did not result in an overwhelming increase in cost of living price increases.

    Ordinarily stimuli that increase total money supply by a factor of ten times will inevitably foster price increases all over the economy.

    And of course, it did. But these increased prices after offsetting declining prices from terrible business conditions unrelieved by any policy, were not enough, we are advised, to constitute a dangerous state of higher price.

    Although it does not appear popular to report if, banking regulations and some new legislation combined to restrict the normal flow of the sainted stimulus credit: which would have ignited the runaway price increases so widely feared. Normal banking practice was so heavily suppressed that the only credit multiplier effect seen to exist was to the maligned hedge fund industry empowered to Chanel the huge $4 T new credit into the bond and stock markets, subsequently boosting bond instrument prices to unheard of levels and historically over priced share prices in stocks.

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