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April 17, 2014

Comments

Mike

David, a comment left under Gawker's coverage of this:

"at least Krugman came by his wealth doing something somewhat worthwhile for the human race."

David

“at least Krugman came by his wealth doing something somewhat worthwhile for the human race.”

Say, by telling American taxpayers that massive and unsustainable increases in federal spending and year after year of trillion-dollar deficits aren’t much of a problem really and are “already, to a large degree, solved.” I also liked the line about “a man who cares about income inequality is accepting a salary in proportion to what his credentials merit.” Which rather misses the source of amusement. And yes, throughout the Gawker comments there are variations of the assumption that a person “concerned” by income inequality - a good person, someone like them - should somehow be exempt from the bitching and resentment aimed at people they regard as not being concerned, regardless of how much either party makes. It’s a neat dance if you can do it.

[ Edited. ]

Tim Worstall

He's a place in the US Virgin Islands too.....

On the other hand he is a blindingly good economist and writer. At least, he was pre- the gig at the NYT. Some of his pieces from the 90s are to die for. "Ricardo's Difficult Idea" for example is excellent.

AC1

But there's nothing "difficult" about Ricardo's theorem. People generally don't like the findings and what it means for structuring taxation (except me) away from income and states billing for their products e.g. land rights, but that seems to be the opposite direction to where Krugman's gone.

David

When stories like this crop up, as they do, it’s interesting to scan a few left-leaning sites and see what kinds of questions aren’t getting asked much, if at all.

When very well-heeled people, including state-loving ‘progressives’, decry income inequality as at the very least something to be fixed, and fixed urgently, at what point can we expect the people saying this to act as if it were true? I mean, act individually, themselves, in accord with their own professed values and imperatives. Curiously, the most typical position is to do nothing whatsoever unless the state acts coercively against everyone, thereby deferring any personal action indefinitely, aside from the usual mouthing. And so, inevitably, that mouthing looks a lot like chaff, a way to divert the envy and resentment they’re so happy to inspire in others: “Yes, I’m loaded, but look at those people over there – the ones who disagree with us – they have slightly more, or almost as much. Let’s all hiss at them.”

To use an example close to home, the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee rails against “the unjust rewards of the rich,” by which she means, “the 1.5% who earn over £100,000.” These, she says, are the “extravagant earners” who “feel profoundly entitled to take what they like in salaries… untouched by public disgust or a sense of propriety.” Toynbee’s Guardian salary, for years a subject of speculation, was eventually revealed as £106,000 - excluding royalties, advances, media fees, rental income, etc. Curiously, Polly’s own financial rewards are not deemed “extravagant,” “unjust” or in any way improper, such is her ability to tolerate dissonance.

And so I see no reason to suppose that Toynbee is as gushing with tearful concern as she would have us believe. If she were, she might give a third of her six-figure salary to those she deems in need, and do it again the next year, and the year after that. I suspect she could do this fairly easily and each time it would transform quite a few lives. It would also address that “outrage” and “injustice” that so bedevils her in a very real and direct way. Likewise, she might give one of her three houses, including that spare Tuscan villa, to a deserving family. That too would be a life-changing act, something tangible. Living one’s values and all that.

But that doesn’t seem likely to happen. Because Polly’s socialism, like that of so many of her peers, is more like this.

Rob

Apparently Polly's villa/palace is in neighbouring Umbria, a region unsullied by the mere middle-classes crawling all over it.

rjmadden

at what point can we expect the people saying this to act as if it were true? I mean, act individually, themselves, in accord with their own professed values and imperatives.

Careful, David. You'll set off some kind of alarm.

David

Careful, David. You’ll set off some kind of alarm.

I know, it’s not the kind of thought one is supposed to air. But the ability to detach from one’s professed principles in this way is… interesting.

It’s hard to resist contrasting Ms Toynbee with, say, Mitt Romney, who apparently gives 30% of his (considerable) income to charity. Though I suppose Polly belongs to a class of people for whom altruism is defined not by giving their own time and money, but by voting to have the state take more of other people’s earnings, regardless of those people’s priorities and commitments, and regardless of whether they share Polly’s egalitarian pretensions. Given that this entails the coercion of a great many third parties, it’s a strange definition of compassion and philanthropy.

In September 2011, Toynbee struggled with a reader’s suggestion that instead of demanding others pay more tax she could make large donations to charities of her choice and thereby ease her conscience. “The point about tax,” she replied, “is that it’s collective – it’s an ‘I will if you will’ deal. I see no hypocrisy in any of this.” The Guardian’s imperious class warrior waved aside suggestions of hypocrisy as merely “empty spite.”

But if Polly’s idea of “being progressive” hinges on the coercion of millions of people who may already feel over-taxed, her preferred tomorrow isn’t likely to happen any time soon. And thus “social justice,” as she sees it, is indefinitely – and conveniently – deferred, leaving her free to be indignant without consequence. For a six-figure salary. As Polly’s conscience is apparently troubled more by what you earn and keep than by what she earns and keeps, that life-changing gesture will simply have to wait.

And if a well-heeled person bangs on, week after week, about how terrible unequal incomes are and how something must be done urgently, and then says they won’t do anything to help directly until the state forces them, along with everyone else, this isn’t a resounding affirmation of their professed morality.

Steve 2: Steveageddon

Krugman's role is to act as the court witch doctor for Big Chief Obama.

Obama wants to print and spend tons of money, so Kruggy pulls out his chicken bones, shakes his magic stick, kisses his Nobel prize, and proclaims that the gods are in favour.

This song and dance routine allows the courtiers to believe what they fervently want to believe: that the people in charge know what they're doing, that things can go on like this, that the ship of state isn't being helmed by a man less competent than your average Italian cruise liner captain after a night on the grappa.

Krugman's smart enough to know better, but smart people are no less prone to rationalisation than others, and even if Krugman has the self awareness to realise what he's doing, why should he care? He's a seriously rich man who is regularly tongue-bathed by lefties. Being wealthy, famous, and feted has its charms. Life is sweet and he will probably be dead by the time the US can't pay its bills or the dollar crumbles into worthlessness.

Even then, economic crises present wonderful opportunities to demonise capitalists and expand the state. It won't occur to college-educated dullards to occupy Washington DC or picket its propagandists at the New York Times. They lack the basic vocabulary of economics required to understand what is being done to them and by whom.

And most Democrat voters are low IQ welfare recipients who'll always vote for the man promising more food stamps and Obamaphones.

If I were an American, I'd be training my cat to scratch the crap out of any tax collectors who might come to my door. At the moment she's only trained to maul charity solicitors and Betterware catalogue people.

svh

it’s an ‘I will if you will’ deal.

Toynbee can say that forever knowing she won't be called on it. Meanwhile ker-ching!

svh

And what Steve 2 said.

Mojo

Payoffs in the Ruling Class. SOP.

Sam Duncan

“$25,000 per month.”

Wow. No wonder he never has anything nice to say about Enron. They only paid him $50,000 a year. Cheapskates. Didn't they know he won a Nobel Prize?

Dom

$25,000 per month! You can feel the Gini index shifting!

Richard Powell

I've always liked the definition of a belief as "something on which we are prepared to act", attributed to CS Peirce among others. It offers an excellent practical test, not least of one's own beliefs.

On that basis, Krugman, Toynbee et al do not really believe in income equality. If they did, they could reduce their income to the average easily enough. They just like to pretend they believe in income equality, so that other people think they are nice and kind and caring and so on. It's surprising how many take their vapourings at face value.

David

It’s surprising how many take their vapourings at face value.

It’s rather like when the Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger - whose egalitarian credentials are affirmed by owning only two houses and just the one £30,000 grand piano - was quizzed on his own hefty earnings. Asked if he was embarrassed by his 2007 salary of £350,000 and the previous year’s bonus of £170,000, Rusbridger said,

Er… er… I didn’t ask for the money.

Which, happily for him, makes all the difference apparently. Not asking for in excess of a cool half-million - but taking it anyway – is evidently some kind of socialist talisman to ward off scepticism and accusations of hypocrisy. Much as Polly attempts to deflect attention from her own rather comfortable affairs by insisting, somewhat implausibly, that “money doesn’t make us happier.”

dicentra

I know, it’s not the kind of thought one is supposed to air. But the ability to detach from one’s professed principles in this way is… interesting.

Interesting?

Let's call a spade a spade. It's sociopathy.

David

Interesting?

Well, it’s interesting that when pressed on this point, Toynbee got quite irritable and simply waved it aside with an excuse that revealed her own dissonance and dishonesty. I don’t think she was able to process the implication of her own words. She won’t do what she insists is morally imperative unless the state forces her to do it.

It’s certainly… odd.

Spiny Norman

When the Onion is Redundant

When I saw that headline, I knew it had to be about Krugger's new $225,000 do-nothing job.

B Moe

Ace earlier linked to Krugman getting a thrashing.

http://www.culturalcognition.net/blog/2014/4/9/more-on-krugmans-symmetry-proof-its-not-whether-one-gets-the.html/

Couldn't happen to a more pointy headed prick.

Spiny Norman

Tim,

On the other hand he is a blindingly good economist and writer. At least, he was pre- the gig at the NYT. Some of his pieces from the 90s are to die for.

Whatever the worth of his contributions to Economics 20-odd years ago (cough*), for the past decade (at the very least) Krugman has been a shameless political whore, telling his friends in the Democratic Party exactly what the want to hear, and has been rewarded quite handsomely.

*He was neck-deep in the Enron debacle, yet walked away with his reputation unscathed.

David Gillies

Krugman's sinecure and his being taken to the woodshed by Kahan are of a piece. They both betray either massive hypocrisy or a glaring cognitive deficit. To accept the equivalent of a median US annual income every month simply for lending one's name to a project on income equality needs one of two things: chutzpah or tone-deafness. No doubt Krugman could come up with some exquisite post hoc rationalisation of why he should be so handsomely remunerated, but in the end it would simply be a restatement of the weaselling documented above: it's OK if I do it. Hypocrisy is the homage etc., and all the little Tartuffes think themselves ever so virtuous. Krugman's misapprehension of the nature of Kahan's work hinges on his belief that if his opinions are right (and how could they not be, since he is Krugman?) then they must have been arrived at via a process of genuine reflection and ratiocination, unlike those hidebound morons on the other side, who arrived at their (incorrect/stupid/evil) opinions out of brute prejudice. Similarly, if an ideological enemy is making a bundle, he must necessarily have done it on the backs of the proletariat or whathaveyou, whereas Krugman, being enlightened, is merely reaping his just rewards. He thereby exhibits exactly the bias that Kahan identifies and from which he, Krugman, believes himself to be immune. It's really rather glorious, or it would be were it not so emetic.

David

They both betray either massive hypocrisy or a glaring cognitive deficit.

James Taranto on Paul Krugman’s imperviousness to irony:

But it does appear to be true that Krugman’s discomfiture over income inequality is not a matter of guilt over his own privileged status or of compassion for the struggles of the poor or middle class, about which he is quite dismissive when they are politically or ideologically inconvenient (as in the case of those who’ve suffered as a result of ObamaCare). Rather, his chief motivation… seems to be ressentiment against those who are better off than he is.

I don’t know enough about Krugman to say whether this is so. But it certainly describes Ms Toynbee and many of her peers.

rabbit

Toynbee struggled with a reader’s suggestion that instead of demanding others pay even more tax she could make large donations to charities of her choice and thereby ease her conscience. “The point about tax,” she replied, “is that it’s collective – it’s an ‘I will if you will’ deal. I see no hypocrisy in any of this.” The Guardian’s foremost class warrior waved aside suggestions of hypocrisy as merely “empty spite,” the smears of “malevolent” people.

In the mid 1800's, the Quakers were strongly opposed to slavery in the American south. What was there reaction? Did they say "Slavery is wrong. I'll give up my slaves if you give up yours."

No, instead many of them (1) refused to own slaves, (2) moved out of the south, and (3) helped run the underground railway.

That is the difference between hyprocrisy and integrity.

rabbit

I can't help but suspect that many of these rich toffs who support much stronger income distribution do so only because they know that conservatives will prevent it from happening. They can demonize conservatives while being secretly thankful for them. They can appear high-minded without paying the costs.

David

Speaking of dear Polly

Darleen

There is no cognitive dissonance nor hypocrisy where it concerns the well-fed, well-heeled Leftists demanding the flattening of wealth of others.

They are neo-feudalist Lords resentful of the uppity bourgeoisie. The Lords *need* their status & wealth in order to keep the serving, working class in line so attacking the people who actually believe in private property ownership must be done.

dicentra

They are neo-feudalist Lords resentful of the uppity bourgeoisie.

There ya go. Nutshell.

Revnant Dream

In ancient times Paul Krugman would have been a court soothsayer.
He would have also been hung if ANY thing he said turned out wrong.
Declaring the future of any action. Witch doctor would have been to high a title.
More like false prophet.
In the long ago they where the bureaucrats making money telling rulers what they wanted to hear. From those pretending to be from God, or Astrologers with a system.Most of their predictions fell threw, but the cover stories held up till the advancing armies laid them all low.

Instead of quantum easing they had basic alchemy turning lead to gold. Just like Obama thinking printing money will magically end the debt with gold left over to enrich themselves more. At public expense of course.
At least the Roman aristocracy had the decency during the Republic to pay for public works like aqueducts & such. Not our gilded crew.

People never change, just the style of dice they use.
I remember in the 80s Wall street investors where caught using horoscopes for trading.

For the most part these people are deluded. thinking their superior to others for what ever reason, from education to fame. Like some judges who when donning a robe, reason they are infallible.
Rationalization is used to set them apart in twisted minds, that they are above the peons.
All others who do not whine about the plight of the so called poor are the evil ones. Never them. Human Nature never changes. They end up making things worse.
Like greenies with the never working useless bird blenders.
This is the left. They are so memory challenged they can't even hold the reality that socialism has killed 150 million people . Nor EVER worked in any Nation to make it more prosperous. It always, always ends with pits for murdered people with plenty of bulldozers. Once the left finds its Utopia is unrealistic. They can't face it so blame it on the citizans, not the ideology.

Fin

I don’t think she was able to process the implication of her own words. She won’t do what she insists is morally imperative unless the state forces her to do it.

Bravo. *Hits tip jar.*

carbon based lifeform

Russell Brand is right up there with Polly on the hypocrisy meter.

http://order-order.com/2014/04/17/russell-brands-marxist-facepalm/

Can this tool walk and chew gum at the same time?

David

Russell Brand is right up there with Polly on the hypocrisy meter.

Ah yes, the Guardian’s favourite “maverick” celebrity. But it’s the standard pattern, the standard lie. The default pathology.

Just like the anhedonic and vindictive George Monbiot, who practically touches himself while thinking of ways to tax people, punish them and take away their stuff, and who denounces air travel as a crime akin to child molestation, while flying around the world to publicise his own books. A contradiction that suggests either a remarkably casual view of child molestation or, more probably, a reluctance to live by his own professed standards. And little would-be Monbiots like the utter tool Sunny Hundal, now “journalist-in-residence” at Kingston University, who announces his “hard-line” green credentials and tells us he gets “pleasure” from eco-lunatics vandalising other people’s property and disrupting their holidays, while flying halfway around the planet, twice, to enjoy a holiday of his own. Or the Skideslkys, who don’t think “we” should want posessions as nice as theirs.

It’s why I think it’s best to view this kind of blatant dishonesty as a kind of rhetorical chaff. It’s there to deflect the envy and spite they wish to cultivate in others. It’s also a reliable indicator of a broken mind. And of malice.

fb31

And of malice.

Aren't you going a bit far there? Being stupid and hypocritical doesn't mean they're malicious.

David

fb31,

Being stupid and hypocritical doesn’t mean they’re malicious.

Well, when people like those above repeatedly tie themselves in knots trying to rationalise how to take away more of your earnings and liberties, and try to prevent you from having things or doing things that they enjoy and wish to go on enjoying, I think that qualifies as malign intent. The fact that their illogic and dishonesty is harmful to you, or would be if given political leverage, hardly seems coincidental given the frequency and zeal. And it isn’t exactly difficult to find professed egalitarians being quite open about their malign sentiments. As if vindictiveness were a credential.

David Gillies

Hanlon's razor eventually fails as a maxim. Stupidity can be so profound, so prolonged and so incorrigible as to take on an aura of malevolence in its own right. You could state it as an analogue of Clarke's Third Law: any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice. And when it comes to explaining Pecksniffs like Toynbee or Zoe Williams, stupidity and malice can hardly be said to be mutually exclusive.

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