Saturday, July 02, 2016

Multiple Instances of Paul Krugman's 'New York Times' Columns Contradicting His Academic Writings

Stuart K. Hayashi

Paul Krugman at a 2008 press conference;
courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
1. Back in December of 2013 I saw links on Facebook to a piece by Benjamin Powell in which he points out how Paul Krugman contradicts himself on the minimum wage.

In the economics textbook he wrote, as well as in his review of another book, he said that raising the minimum wage contributes to a reduction in employment hours. Yet, in his New York Times column, he sounds oblivious to this economic reality.

Interestingly, in that book review he did, Krugman admits that supporting the minimum wage is economically illiterate, and that he thinks it is moral to support it anyway: "...what the living wage is really about is not living standards, or even economics, but morality. Its advocates are basically opposed to the idea that wages are a market price... ...the amorality of the market economy...cannot be legislated away."

However, I thought that perhaps the people who linked to Ben Powell's piece might not have been aware of the previous instances of Krugman's New York Times writings contradicting his academic writings on economics. Hence on Facebook I showed them two other instances.

2. Consider the anti-globalization argument: the anti-globalization movement said that it is evil for the rich countries to outsource labor to poor developing countries where the pay is lower. The common anti-globalization argument is that this will both contribute to unemployment in the rich countries and keep the poor countries in poverty, as the low-wage workers' living standards will never improve.

In the Times, Krugman advances that argument. Yet, as Donald Boudreaux points out, Krugman refuted it on his academic website from his days at MIT (before he taught at Princeton, he taught at MIT).

3. Moreover, in his Times column, Krugman ridiculed conservatives for saying that welfare payments encourage their recipients to become dependent on the government. Yet, as James Taranto notes in the Wall Street Journal, in the textbook that Krugman co-authored with his wife, Krugman and his wife concur with conservatives on this very same issue.

This raises a question. On these matters of economic policy, whom should we trust: Paul Krugman the newspaper columnist or Paul Krugman the economics professor?