The G-File

John Maynard Keynes Gets Even Deader

Dear Reader (and Barney Frank’s boyfriend, who’s “just here to heckle”),

First, let me apologize. I know I’ve said over and over again that the G-File is what it is whether you like it or not. Like Dr. Johnny Fever yelling “Booger” when he gets his job at WKRP, I feel liberated to write about whatever I want around here, whether or not it’s timely, informative, intelligent, or even intelligible. And I still do. See:

Rat farts!

But sometimes you can get caught up in the idea of letting your freak flag fly and let things get the better of you. And it seems that many readers thought that there was just a bit too much sodomy humor in last week’s column. Message received!

But While We’re on the Topic of Pains in the Krugman I finally read Steve Spruiell’s excellent magazine piece on Paul Krugman. One passage in particular caught my eye:

Krugman’s claim that the stimulus should have been bigger is consistent with his view that for every macroeconomic problem there is a correct answer that it is within the power of one man to calculate. Not only is such a claim unfalsifiable, but our experience with fiscal stimulus indicates that this particular form of voodoo economics simply steals demand from the future and leaves us worse off in the long run. Krugman urges us to ignore that history: He argues that real fiscal stimulus has been tried only once in recent memory, when massive government borrowing during World War II pulled America out of the Depression. But there are many competing explanations for the post-war boom – too many to allow us to gamble our prosperity on a World War II-sized stimulus on the chance that the Keynesian view is right this time.

This raises a number of points, gripes, grievances, and, well, the dead. Not literally, of course. But not quite figuratively either. Let me take another lithium pill and start again. It raises the issue of John Maynard Keynes, who is dead, literally, and apparently figuratively in Europe. So says the New York Times, which ran an intellectual obit for Keynesianism just this week.

This is more devastating to Krugman & Co. than I think anyone really appreciates.

First of all, liberals like Krugman routinely argue that the Europeans are smarter than us. Not smarter than Krugman per se, because according to Krugman no one is smarter than Krugman. Even imagining such a thing is like asking if God can make a boulder so heavy he can’t lift it, which itself is problematic for the obvious reason that Krugman resents the suggestion he isn’t God. But liberals generally love to press their noses up against the glass of the social-democratic candy store that is Europe. Oh, the deliciously high taxes! The mouth-wateringly rich vacation times! The succulently egalitarian socialized medicine. The subsidized cheese that smells like urine and tastes like you wish it could be. The state-funded black-and-white movies with no discernible narrative that make insecure people feel smart for understanding and twisted people feel normal by being sexually aroused at all the right parts.

Well, suddenly Europe’s breaking up with us, and not over some cowboy war in the Middle East for “democracy” or American “national security” (please note: those are sarcastic air-quotes). Europe is saying they disagree with theNew York Times op-ed page! Cognitive dissonance like this might just make MSNBC watchers explode like mice when subjected to music by the Ramones.

But it’s not the best part. Krugman, Brad DeLong, and other voluptuaries of Keynes don’t merely insist they are right. They insist that people who disagree with them are incredibly stupid or dishonest or both. Suddenly, the smarty-pants Europeans these guys always used as exhibit A in their case for spending money like a New Jersey Turnpike official on crack are testifying for the Tea Partiers. How inconvenient!

The next time some Krugman-worshipping yutz tells you how stupid you are about for opposing another kabillion-dollar boondoggle, you can just say, “Hey, hold on a second. I’m just agreeing with the French, the Germans, and the British. Why are you so provincial in your American exceptionalism?”

War, What Is It Good For?

Another point! Steve is absolutely right that the only example smart liberals point to for proof that Keynesian spending works the way they claim is World War II. I wish dumber liberals who keep insisting that the New Deal ended the Great Depression would pay more attention to this fact.

In fairness, some liberals of indeterminate intelligence don’t expressly claim the New Deal ended the Great Depression, they simply say conservatives are redonkulous for claiming the New Deal prolonged it. In other words, the New Deal just sort of happened until the Great Depression ended.

It’s entirely fair to say, as a conversational matter, that World War II ended the Great Depression. But as a matter of economics and policy, it’s sort of crazy. First, let’s imagine Krugman’s right that it was the domestic spending during the war that pulled us out of the Depression. We came out of World War II with a debt equal to 109 percent of GDP. Is that what Krugman is suggesting? At the end of 2008, our debt was 40 percent of GDP; now it’s 62 percent. So I guess we need a stimulus on the order of another 55 percent of GDP to get the economy moving? Everyone whose mouth and chin is unstained by bong resin, please raise your hands if you agree with that in any way.

Second, the war didn’t end the Depression, at least not the way Krugman says. The reason we got on a sustainable economic growth path was simple. This place called Europe (and Japan) had been flattened by the war. Their factories were smoking. Their people were desperate to rebuild. Guess who sold them their cars, dishwashers, food, and the rest? The U. S. of A.: The one country left standing after the war with a real market economy and factories ready to go. Trade builds economic muscle mass. Stimulus is a sugar high.

Whatever Happened to Vocab?

No, I haven’t developed a bad case of Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia. The vocab section will be coming back after the election. Why after the election? Burp. Why not?

Boredwalk Empire

I’m afraid my friend Shannen Coffin is simply wrong about Steve Buscemi. I like him as an actor and I like the character of Nucky Thompson, but the two don’t work together. On this, there can be no debate!

Anarchy! Anarchy!

This season’s Sons of Anarchy is really starting to heat up. But that’s not important right now. The good news is that the suits have agreed to put my piece on the Sons on NRO in the coming days.

About That Panel

I have been inundated with questions about the C-Span panel for Proud to Be Right [BROKEN LINK]. I completely understand that. I did warn readers in this space in advance that they should check it out. But my colleague Helen – who just happens to be the one who edits the G-File – has taken the high road and refrained from commenting further. I’m going to take the same road as best I can.

Colorado!

But if you want to ask me about it in person and you live in the Colorado Springs area, you should swing by this [BROKEN LINK].

More C-Span!

Or you can wait until November 7 when C-Span will have me on “In Depth” for a full three hours, solo. No, really. I don’t understand why they’re doing this either.

Crocodiles!

As I noted in the Corner, a Crocodile escaped from a carry-on bag on a plane. I let Kate at Small Dead Animals speak for me: “I got to tell you, if I see amphibians who are in Crocodile garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Crocodiles, I get worried. I get nervous.”

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