We dislike him, we ridicule him, and we tend to dismiss him, but here’s the sad truth: Paul Krugman’s influence is vast, and conservatives have no effective counterpoise.
Over the past twelve months, Krugman has become the de facto official spokesperson for more government spending, larger federal deficits, and an aggressive monetary policy (including major asset purchases by the Federal Reserve like the one earlier this month). He reaches large audiences via his twice-weekly column in the New York Times and his blog on the New York Times website, to which he posts with impressive frequency — sometimes two or three times per day.
The Wall Street Journal would do its cause, and the cause of conservatism, a tremendous service by offering a similar platform to an outspoken and eloquent conservative economist. It should provide somebody a weekly column, a prominently featured blog, and a mandate to vigorously advocate free-market principles and supply-side economics. This person’s understanding of economics will need to be as deep as Krugman’s, so that he or she can comfortably spar with Krugman even on complex and highly technical subject matter; and the person will also need Krugman’s skill of explaining abstruse topics in a way that can be easily understood by non-economists.
The Wall Street Journal does not presently have such a columnist. Holman Jenkins writes a weekly column titled “Business World”, but he is not a heavyweight scholar of economics and his columns rarely address the macro-economic topics on which Krugman regularly opines. Arthur Laffer contributes, but not with sufficient frequency. We need somebody who can craft a coherent argument and then hammer it home, week in and week out. Someone who can regularly spar with Krugman and rebut his columns and blog posts.
Who might be suitable for such a role? It will be important to cast a wide net and thoroughly survey the pool of conservative economists who have penned compelling punditry, but it would probably have to be somebody in the mold of a John Taylor, a Niall Ferguson, or a Gregory Mankiw.
Yes, the recent elections suggest that Krugman’s side is losing in the battle for public opinion. But we ought not grow complacent. Krugman remains very effective at advancing, through widely read channels, a fiercely liberal economic viewpoint. He is influencing the terms of the debate, especially among educated professionals. We need an anti-Krugman, and what better place for him than in the pages of the Wall Street Journal?
— Alexander Benard is managing director of a D.C.-based consulting and investment firm.