Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Asymmetric Polarization And Economic Reporting By Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman just invented a new term that describes a problem that has bothered him for a long time.  Our major news organizations, including the NYT and the Washington Post would like to give equal time to conservative economists so that they can balance liberal and conservative ideas in their reporting.  That should be easy because there are lots of respected conservative economists to choose from.  Unfortunately, they have only been able to come up with sycophants who are not respected in the profession.  He gave us a few examples of the duds who have recently been given the opportunity to display their ignorance in the service of balance.  He invented a new term for this problem: He calls it "asymmetric polarization".

We have asymmetric polarization for two reasons.  In the first place, there is no problem finding liberal economists who make an honest effort to analyze and describe economic policy issues.  The other side of the problem is that conservative politicians are not interested in ideas from conservative economists that do not validate their policy proposals.  Their reporting would have no influence on the policy debate within the Republican Party.  Consequently, the media are forced to provide a platform to "economists" who will sing the praises of Republican economic policies that never die. Krugman calls them zombie ideas for that reason.  Like zombies they are immortal.  Its always a good idea to cut taxes for the rich, and its always a good idea to cut regulations that donors to the Republican Party don't like etc. etc.  Unfortunately, Donald Trump's plan to implement tariffs to balance US trade deficits with China creates a real problem for the Republican Party.  It runs counter to the free trade ideology that has been embraced by the great majority of economists and by both political parties.  Its been interesting to watch conservative economists attempting to put a positive spin on Trump's trade policies.  We do have a trade imbalance but tariffs are not the best way to balance US trade.  The stock market has spoken on this problem.  The market does not like chaos.

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