More on the Modern-Day Bastiat

by Don Boudreaux on June 6, 2012

in Economics

A_____ sent me an e-mail this morning.  This person (a stranger to me) denied my request to use his name or to quote here from his e-mail.  I will, though, summarize A_____’s note: A_____ is highly critical, to put it mildly, of my earlier denial that Paul Krugman is “the Bastiat of today.

I stand by all that I said in that earlier blog post.  But pondering this matter anew prompts me to turn to the four ‘biases’ that Bryan Caplan finds among the general public unfamiliar with the economic way of thinking.  These biases are (in no particular order) (1) the anti-foreign bias; (2) the make-work bias; (3) the anti-market bias; and (4) the pessimistic bias.  It’s fair to describe Bastiat’s works as verbal artillery fire against these biases.

Krugman post-1999/2000 – that is, Mr. Krugman since he’s become a regular New York Times columnist (as opposed to Dr. Krugman, pre-NYT column) – specializes in, and is most famous today for, promoting and fueling these biases.

I leave it to the reader to judge whether or not I am correct to claim that Mr. Krugman is today guilty of encouraging the general public in its embrace of each of these biases.  It certainly seems to me that he is indeed guilty of doing so.  Of course, Mr. Krugman promotes some of these biases more enthusiastically and frequently than he promotes others of them; he champions, for example, the make-work bias with special gusto.  But each of these biases is now fueled by his popular writings.  No such thing could ever be said of Bastiat‘s writings.

Please note that you can fully agree with all that Mr. Krugman today writes and still find no reason to dissent from the point of this post.  Right or wrong in his economics, Mr. Krugman is emphatically not ”the Bastiat of today.”  A more apt descriptor would be that he’s the anti-Bastiat.

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