Paul Krugman versus Bari Weiss

Well, one New York Times columnist has dissed another. Here’s Paul Krugman’s tweet referencing and disparaging Bari Weiss’s piece on the “Intellectual Dark Web” (see here and here).

Now I wasn’t terribly enthused by Weiss’s piece, but I think Krugman has it all wrong here. The issue is not about making a lot of money or being criticized for your views, but how you’re treated in public venues; whether your ideas are demonized to the point of getting you deplatformed or attacked, and whether what you say is considered “hate speech” that is violence against the oppressed. Another issue is how that kind of treatment makes you move on the political spectrum.

Why would Krugman willfully misunderstand Weiss’s points, which, though nebulous, are clearly not just about being criticized or making money from your ideas?

I don’t read Krugman, but several people I know do and admire him immensely. Perhaps some reader can explain this intra-NYT squabble. Is Krugman an “identitarian”? He’s surely smart enough to know that what he says above is not a valid criticism of Weiss’s piece.

65 Comments

  1. Peter
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    My hunch is that Weiss’s article lacks clarity, and that this explains Krugman’s tweet. I don’t think that he’s willfully misunderstanding his NYT colleague.

    • Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      I think he is understanding very well, and is being sarcastic to the point of being mean.

  2. DW
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Krugman is one of the many people that has completely gone down the rabbit hole in the last few years. It seems that about five years ago or so, suddenly a number of people that I greatly respected went insane. People that used to care about numbers and data now only care about race and “privilege”.

    • Historian
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      I read Krugman regularly and he rarely writes about race and privilege. His focus as a self-professed liberal is on economic and health policy and how Republicans screw working people.

      • Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. I’ve never heard (read) him espouse a opinion.

        • Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

          … espouse a [crtl][left] opinion.

    • Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      I think that for Krugman, the period was longer.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Examples?

      • Historian
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

        I think you’ll have a long wait. Many of the right wing commenters have taken this opportunity to attack the liberal Paul Krugman without a shred of evidence. They use the tried and true tactic of attempting to conflate every liberal with the fringe regressive left. The tactic worked for Joe McCarthy (at least for a while), so why not now?

        • DW
          Posted May 10, 2018 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

          If you think I’m right-wing, you’re out of your mind. I read Krugman for years and very much respected him. I voted for Obama twice. So get the heck out of here with your “everyone who disagrees is my political enemy”.

        • Angel
          Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

          ++

      • DW
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

        This post right here is a perfect example. He believes the freethinkers should shut up because they’re clearly privileged. Then there was earlier this year when he declared that Trump will complete the ruin of America. And last year when he declared that Trump was “obviously mentally ill” (back when he and a bunch of others were under the delusion that they could oust Trump via the 25th Amendment).

        This was a guy that I really respected. He was the guy that convinced me that single-payer healthcare was the way to go and a learned a ton about macro-economics from him. But now he’s simply unhinged.

        • josh
          Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

          From what I can see Trump is working towards the ruin of America, and has obvious mental problems. (Whether they qualify as illness is beyond my expertise.) I think Krugman is having a shallow knee-jerk reaction to Weiss piece, but I don’t see that he’s become “unhinged” in general.

  3. Karen Fierman
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I think you all are missing Krugman’s point here. I think he’s being satirical, suggesting that Weiss(who shares all the same perks as he does)is deeming the IDW’ers as being veritable “Stalinists” because they dare to disagree with the ILW’s (Intellectual LIGHT Web’s)thinking. I think he understands only too well what Weiss is saying and disagrees with it.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      +1.

    • Posted May 10, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      I concur.

    • Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:02 am | Permalink

      I don’t get this construal at all; if he disagrees with what Weiss says, his satire has missed the mark because it doesn’t even come close to what Weiss said.

  4. Jon Gallant
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Followers of this website like Bari Weiss because of her refusal to indulge the twaddle of the identitarian, regressive (and, alas, increasingly predominant) strain on the Left. Perhaps Paul Krugman sees Weiss’ resistance to this sort of thing as “breaking ranks”.

    If so, he would fall into the category of well-meaning liberals/social democrats who hope to avoid offending anyone on their “Left”—their rule being “no enemies to the Left”. In 1917, a gentleman named Alexander Kerensky tried to follow this rule, but found that it had certain pitfalls.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      Really, you’re gonna compare Krugman to Kerensky? Who’s that make Nicholas Kristof, Alexander Bogdanov? 🙂

  5. Harrison
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Krugman’s not a bad thinker on the whole but he’s got some major blind spots. His own readers have repeatedly pointed out how often he’s taken unprovoked jabs at Bernie Sanders (Krugman is a staunch Clintonite), particularly his short-shrifting Sanders’s “Medicare for all” pitch as infeasible. Reminder that this is the same guy who once gave Obama major flack for “negotiating against himself” by starting his healthcare negotiations with single payer already off the table.

    • Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      Anybody paying attention in 2008 (which was almost no one) would’ve noticed that obama was never in favor of single-payer. Krugman made the all too common mistake of falling for obama’s mellifluous demagoguery.

      Which is why instead of universal public healthcare, we got compulsory private health insurance.

  6. Andy
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    I think there’s definitely some misunderstanding going on. I suspect that, like others, Krugman is noting the irony in extremely well paid people complaining about how they are being oppressed or deplatformed, from a prominent platform in the paper of record…

    • Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Many leftists who complain about how they are being oppressed are also extremely well paid. And in a sense, why shouldn’t they complain? E.g. Donna Zuckerberg’s presumed wealth does not mean that it is OK for people to call her slurs.

      • Filippo
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        I’m reminded of the late and former owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, corporate oligarch and totalitarian bigot Marge Schott, and the grief she gave the manager of the team who, despite being paid an annual salary of $1M (and apparently because of his being paid that, Schott thinking she was entitled to chew on him for any reason and at any time it pleased her), resigned his position, basically saying that the money was not worth it.

    • Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:05 am | Permalink

      As I said in my post, who says that all of those people are well paid. Bret Weinstein and his wife, for instance, were fired and got a settlement from Evergreen that will cover their living expenses for about two years. Her article was not about money, it was about ideas and how they are treated.

      • Andy
        Posted May 11, 2018 at 7:07 am | Permalink

        Well, I’m not the one that used the word ‘all’, although perhaps I should have said ‘some’. But casually mentioning that one pulls in about a million dollars a year from a side-gig certainly counts as being at least well off.
        However, I think Mayamarkov’s final sentence sums up the way this is usually presented: when one’s own side is hateful, well that’s just free speech; when it’s the others, that counts as ‘slurs’ and is not OK.

        • Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          Zuckerberg is from “the others” to me and the majority of commenters here. She is a classicist who presents her subject from an ultra-woke viewpoint. Try a post or two of her online journal “Eidolon”. She also viciously attacked a fellow classicist (V. D. Hanson) for no apparent reason. All this, to me, does not make it OK for alt-right bloggers to trash her in multiple posts for being a Jew. I don’t mean that some government body should go after them, just that their action is morally unacceptable and forces me, her opponent, to defend her.

          • Andy
            Posted May 11, 2018 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

            Great point! And thank you for the clarification.

  7. dd
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Krugman understands perfectly what Weiss is saying and is pissed off at it.

    Given his devoted progressive politics, I can see why he is upset. My repeated personal experience is that many progressives see contradictions to their most cherished positions as heresies.

    The odd thing is that given Krugman’s politics where he writes and where he has taught, I think very few would attempt to deplatform him.

    BTW, you do know that many writers at the NYTimes loath Weiss and attack her publicly when they can.

  8. Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Krugman is good on economics but his bailiwick doesn’t extend much beyond that. He is no fan of Trump so he can’t be too bad, right?

    I am not so sure he is complaining about the article. Perhaps he is sympathizing with Weiss on the criticism she has gotten. His articles and tweets get a lot of abuse from the Trumpers. He might also feel bad about being left out of the IDW.

    • Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Krugman is terrible on economics. But then again, so are all practitioners of that particular pseudo-science.

      • Harrison
        Posted May 11, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        If you think it’s a pseudoscience then how can anyone be bad at it? That’s like saying someone is bad at astrology.

        • Posted May 11, 2018 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          Both astrologists and economists are terrible at describing the world or making predictions.

      • Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        I disagree with your second sentence. I am happy to have read Henry Hazlitt and Ludwig von Mises, and I have advertised them to as many people as possible. I think they present sound ideas that, if kept in mind by voters, would improve the society.

        • Posted May 11, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

          Mises’ belief in revealed (to him) economic truths and the impossibility of empirically testing such claims, epitomizes the pseudo-scientific nature of the field.

          • Posted May 12, 2018 at 2:05 am | Permalink

            His claims that socialism brings ruin were tested empirically in many countries and confirmed everywhere. The same with inflation. My country was hyperinflated and bankrupted twice in the 1990s and had to beg IMF to save her from starvation. Then the printing press was given some rest and now we enjoy a modest growth.

            • Filippo
              Posted May 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

              How are things re: income (in)equality?

              • Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

                To me and to the authors I mentioned, the problem is not income inequality but the well-being of those who have low income. If they live decently, it does not matter that some enjoy luxury.

  9. dd
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Has Krugman ever written a column about the effects of low-wage immigration on wage levels?

    I have tried to find one and can’t and think it’s because it would be used against Democratic efforts to build voting blocs.

    • Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      “What about the claim that immigrant workers compete with less-educated native-born workers, driving their wages down and increasing income inequality? Most of the evidence suggests that this claim is wrong, …”

      He refers to this Brookings study: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/jobs/2012/05/04/what-immigration-means-for-u-s-employment-and-wages/

      • dd
        Posted May 10, 2018 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. But this won’t do it. DACA folks aren’t by and large low-wage immigrants….in fact, they themselves are not immigrants.

        And the Brookins study, like so many other studies, does not really distinguish between low and high-wage immigrants.

        There is a reason Sheldon Adelson wants open borders, whereas Cesar Chavez knew that “open borders” would destroy the leverage of immigrant farm workers. It was the farm owners who wanted larger immigration.

        Krugman, like so many others on both left and right, won’t touch the question of low-wage imigration. And why should they? Everybody wants cheap house and yard care….and in terms of the Democrats, a potentially endlessly growing voting bloc.

        • Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

          So, in a word, this decorated economist claims that flooding the market with a particular good (in this case, labor) will not decrease its price and demand. Good to know! To me, cheap labor is abomination, and I have never expected to see it in high regard in the West, once slavery was abolished.

  10. Barney
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Krugman is addressing the bulk of Weiss’s piece, which is mainly about how the ‘IDW’ is people breaking with the orthodoxy of where they, at first glance, stand, and are doing so in the modern media of podcasts and so on.

    There’s a bit in her article about getting deplatformed, but not much. That is, however, the bit that interests you the most, so that was what stuck in your mind.

    She says that one of the “three distinct qualities” that they “all share” is that “some have paid for this commitment by being purged from institutions”. Which means, of course, that they don’t all share that quality – sloppy writing, but perhaps the two distinct qualities of being “willing to disagree ferociously” and “determined to resist parroting what’s politically convenient” weren’t enough – especially since those two are very similar.

    The article isn’t *just* “about being criticized or making money from your ideas”, but it is “mainly* about that. And that’s what the tweet went for. It’s only a tweet, so you can’t fit a lot into it.

    Has he continued with other tweets or an article?

    • Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Barney: I like your take on it. I agree.

  11. josh
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Krugman is making a version of a very common and very dumb argument that crops up on the left. (I should note that the right has its own versions) It runs like this: Person A says they are victims of oppressive/unjust tactics, but Person A is still financially well-off/has an audience/has a job, therefore they can’t actually be victims of the aforesaid tactics. In the case of Weiss it’s particularly blatant: Weiss hasn’t been fired yet, therefore she can’t complain about the ongoing effort to get her fired.

    The reality is that society is highly polarized, so someone critical of the left can still find support on the right and vice versa. But of course it doesn’t follow that one side is justified in censoring legitimate discussion in its own venues with the excuse that they can run to the other.

    Moreover, its a strawman to argue that Weiss is complaining about mere criticism. She’s talking about unjustified criticism, lack of intellectual engagement, and the numerous campaigns to deplatform and otherwise punish people with the ‘wrong’ attitudes. That also includes attempts to harm them financially and physically. I don’t think Weiss is an especially good commentator, but I was hoping for better from Krugman.

    • Craw
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      I agree. He isn’t misunderstanding her argument, he is playing dumb. That way he can pretend, as you indicate, that the normal disagreement he encounters is no different from the punitive attacks on people like Hirsi Ali or some of the others.

    • KP
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      This is what happens when your only set of tools is to place everyone and everything on various axes of power. No one was claiming to a victim in the activist-leftist sense.

  12. Steve Cameron
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow, everyone’s reading a lot into his tweet. All he is saying is that since people criticize him and his views, he too must be a victim of some Stalinist (a sly nod to the “ctrl-left”) conspiracy like Weiss seems to insinuate is happening to the IDWers. He mentions his well paying job as a columnist at a newspaper that gives him a huge platform, not to mention all the speaking engagements he gets, to drive home how absurd it is to complain about how some people don’t want to hear him.

    • Vaal
      Posted May 11, 2018 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      That is what I took from the tweet and I understand Jerry did as well. And Jerry has argued that insofar as that was Krugman’s “dig” it was missing the point. (It misses the problem of the current leftist milieu, De-platforming, being labelled “hate speech” etc).

  13. Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    “An alliance of heretics is making an end run around the mainstream conversation. Should we be listening?”

    The main thrust is summarized in the above blurb – I don’t think Krugman is missing the point. We already have a bastion of free speech on the internet. It’s called ‘the internet ‘. It’s true that people get called nasty names and their haters try to deplatform them, but no group of victims can claim a monopoly on such abuses.

  14. Posted May 10, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Krugman is very careful to stay away from religion. He declares his liberalism with caution. He does not like to offend and I imagine he does not like others who might offend even if he agrees with them.

    I like Krugman a lot, but I think he does a disservice to himself when he tell people that motivations against social inequality and climate change can easily be justified by religious beliefs. These are central to the economic principles that he likes to uphold.

  15. chris moffatt
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Krugman doesn’t wilfully misunderstand Weissman any more than he wilfully misunderstands economics. It’s not deliberate it’s just a mindset.

  16. Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Krugman has made more wrong predictions than Sylvia Browne, so it’s not surprising the significance of the IDW eludes him.

    • yazikus
      Posted May 10, 2018 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      I just don’t have the energy to have a side in this NYT vs NYT nonsense. That said, totally OT – have you had a chance, perchance, to watch the Netflix doc Wild Wild Country? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if so.

  17. Christopher
    Posted May 10, 2018 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    I won’t bother trying this divine what Krugman or Weiss may or may not have meant. What I will say is that this is more proof that the Left, even with a clear and obviously dangerous enemy in the tRump republicans, are continuing their desperate act of intellectual and political ouroboros. Well done.

  18. mirandaga
    Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    Paul Krugman is as knee-jerk as they come. Also, he’s so smug that he actually believes he’s Paul Krugman.

  19. Hemidactylus
    Posted May 11, 2018 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    From the NYT article on IDW:

    “These donations can add up. Mr. Rubin said his show makes at least $30,000 a month on Patreon. And Mr. Peterson says he pulls in some $80,000 in fan donations each month…
    “I’ve figured out how to monetize social justice warriors,” Mr. Peterson said in January on Joe Rogan’s podcast. “”

    Pinker has his own thing going outside the lecture and podcast gravy train, but Harris seems to me to be mostly doing podcasts and lecture appearances. Peterson is *capitalizing* on his 15 minutes. He’s helping the IDW with their SJW problem and as a consequence steering people toward Jung. Cui bono?

    The pied piper of Hamelin was contracted to do one thing but then also did something else. Peterson excoriates SJWs but his tunes are also drawing the audience into the Platonic cave of the Jungian archetypes.

    And on that theme I was struck by something Sam Harris intimated to Dan Dennett a while back which may betray how he views his audience:

    “…I don’t know, Dan, if you’re aware of this — you don’t squander as much of your time on social media or in your inbox — but I heard from so many of our mutual readers that they were despairing of that contretemps between us. It was like Mom and Dad fighting, and it was totally unpleasant.”

    View story at Medium.com

  20. Posted May 11, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I read Krugman regularly, and agree with him on most points. For him, it’s the political economy, stupid; if he has ever addressed identitarian politics, I don’t recall seeing it. Others further to his economic left, such as Brian Leiter at the University of Chicago, see identitarian politics as essentially neo-liberal, and an impediment to economic justice, and thus do critique it.

    So, while Bari Weiss is all about the critique of identitarianism, Krugman’s never written about it to my knowledge, and certainly it’s not a big thing for him. As for the tweet at hand, it’s meaning is a bit obscure to me, but Weiss’s piece was also a bit obscure. The most direct reading of Krugman’s tweet is that it’s a personal attack on Weiss, who Krugman sees as part of the “IDW”, despite her explicit disavowal.

    • Historian
      Posted May 11, 2018 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      “I read Krugman regularly, and agree with him on most points. For him, it’s the political economy, stupid; if he has ever addressed identitarian politics, I don’t recall seeing it.”

      Yes, this is exactly the point I made above. Like all economists, he has gotten some things wrong, and has admitted it. He is a mainstream liberal and any attempt to associate him with the so-called regressive left serves the right-wing agenda, regardless of the ideology of those who make these baseless charges.

      • Angel
        Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        +++

      • Posted May 11, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        After this tweet of Krugman, the charges of him being Ctrl-Left can hardly be called baseless. At best, he is (like Trump) one of those who shouldn’t use Twitter unsupervised. But I fear he will progress.


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