Sometimes when I read my brain just skips over the revolting hyperbola of certain social scientists–especially the exceedingly smug variety (usually economists). It must be said that Krugman ranks atop of the list in this regard. However, today I was forced to reread this nonsense and my brain just could not suppress. Krugman writes of Keynes that:
There has been nothing like Keynes’s achievement in the annals of social science. Perhaps there can’t be. Keynes was right about the problem of his day: the world economy had magneto trouble, and all it took to get the economy going again was a surprisingly narrow, technical fix.
This is so odd because it flies so directly in the face the historical record, a historical record which Krugman partially relates some paragraphs prior:
In fact, the arrival of Keynesian economics in American classrooms was delayed by a nasty case of academic McCarthyism. The first introductory textbook to present Keynesian thinking, written by the Canadian economist Lorie Tarshis, was targeted by a right-wing pressure campaign aimed at university trustees. As a result of this campaign, many universities that had planned to adopt the book for their courses cancelled their orders, and sales of the book, which was initially very successful, collapsed. Professors at Yale University, to their credit, continued to assign the book; their reward was to be attacked by the young William F. Buckley for propounding “evil ideas.”
So how was it that Keynes was right? That is, how could it be that the ideas of Keynes had been proved right if his ideas, “narrow and technical” as they were, were repressed until after the crisis of global capitalism had been resolved?
But for argument sake let us assume that there was a shadowy group of economic mandarins who had covertly read Keynes, who were staffing the back rooms of advanced capitalist states and secretly implementing policies of the Keynesian variety. What then was the narrow “technical fix” which remedied the crisis? Let me answer just in case my readers are as dumb as Krugman thinks his are: The Second World War!
It is nice to know that Krugman regards the Second World War as a “narrow technical exercise”. Come to think of it Krugman might just have more in common with the Bush administration than he thought.
With such high caliber social scientists staffing the hallowed Ivy halls no wonder Keynes and the rather confused General Theory stands out as a singular achievement in the social sciences.
Compared to what… indeed.