Krugman, Fiscal Conservatism, and Me

by Yuval Levin

Paul Krugman, citing Brad DeLong, points out that a recent New York Times Magazine article on reform conservatism featured me and Ramesh very heavily. I certainly agree that its featuring me so heavily was odd (though Ramesh deserves such prominent placement and more), and that it left out some crucial people—like Reihan Salam, Ross Douthat, and others far more significant than I. Ramesh takes up the subject of the reform conservatives a bit more fully on the homepage today, if you’re interested. 

But then, in an understandable effort to figure out who the heck I am, Krugman points to a post of mine from last year in which I said I thought it was ridiculous to suggest that conservative fiscal worries were based on a paper that two economists (Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff) had published in 2010 and that then turned out to have made significant errors. He doesn’t point to my ever relying on or referring to that paper (or to another by Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna that he also mentions), which I didn’t, and he doesn’t make the case that fiscal conservatism did not exist before these papers were published (in 2009 and 2010) or that Republicans didn’t complain about deficits and federal spending and their effects on the economy before that time. Instead he points to a March, 2011 report published by the Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee that refers to both of those earlier papers. 

I’m sure Krugman has, in his time, referred to academic work that has later turned out not to be valid, as the JEC staff apparently did here, but I’m also sure he hasn’t based his overall perspective on economics or fiscal policy on any one or two papers, as they clearly didn’t either. What I’m not so sure about is what any of that has to do with reform conservatism, or anything else really.