July 10, 2005

#186: "Is “pessimism” now some sort of religious faith?"

P. Krugman


It’s been months since Paul Krugman has written a column on the sad plight of our economy. We’re sure all Squad readers know why. The U.S. and world economies are doing pretty damn well. Even Krugman’s buddy, Stephen Roach, over at Morgan Stanley has thrown in the towel. As Roach put it:

“As a card-carrying pessimist, I am now being chided for expressing any
optimism.  My newfound bullishness on bonds, in conjunction with a more
upbeat assessment of Europe, has sparked a howl of protest from the
pessimistic crowd.  It's high time for the pessimist to play a more
even-handed role in shaping the macro debate.”

Chided? Pessimistic Crowd? This leads us to ask some questions: Is “pessimism” is now some sort of religious faith? Or is it a clandestine brotherhood complete with torch lit meeting rooms and secret handshakes? Is Roach now in danger of being “read out” of the club? Will Krugman, as pessimist-in-chief, stop quoting him in his columns? Should be fun to watch but we were frankly surprised that Roach felt it necessary to explain his revised views in terms of a break with the faithful.

In the mean time Krugman, much like Al Qaeda, has moved on to softer targets in his columns. His latest crusade is obesity. In Free to Choose Obesity (07/08/05) the villain is clear–big food, and the answer is clear–big government, but beyond that Krugman has little to say about what specific solutions might be. There is little wonder why. When you go much beyond labeling and education, things get silly fast. How about floor scales at Burger King, McDonalds and Wendy’s along with wall mounted height detectors. When customers’ height/weight ratios are over the “obese line”, they have to go to the salad bar. Or how about a government inspection program much like the Department of Agriculture’s meat and poultry system? Can anyone imagine a candy bar going down a government inspection line being checked for violating a regulatory sugar limit?

We also think obesity concerns should begin at home. If Krugman were slim and trim himself he would at least have some credibility on this subject. But he’s not. He’s a pudgy academic. In fact, if Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury doughboy, and one of “big foods” most famous icons, were to grow a beard and take off the chef’s hat, he would be a spitting image of the Krugster himself. So what’s PK’s excuse? Was he misled by big food advertisements into thinking Twinkies were not fattening? Is he a victim? Like we said, when you get into the details things can get pretty silly.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. ]

Posted by John Weidner at July 10, 2005 12:06 PM
Weblog by John Weidner