Paul Krugman: The Conscience of a Liberal

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Krugman, Paul. The Conscience of a Liberal (New York: Norton, 2007)

For a pundit called "shrill" by conservatives for his largely sensible--although critical of Busheviks--NYT columns, Paul Krugman has penned a very even-handed polemic about a contentious subject: the much-maligned political ideology of American liberalism.

Krugman refers to the post-WWII period as "The Great Compression," when the middle class was created as Americans' standards of living became more homogeneous. He laments how this broad prosperity, which he notes "was created, in just the space of a few years, by the policies of the Roosevelt administration" (p. 7) was deliberately destroyed by conservatives. Despite the fact that "America is a far more productive and hence far richer country than it was a generation ago:"

The value of the output an average worker produces in an hour, even after you adjust for inflation, has risen almost 50 percent since 1973. Yet the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small minority has proceeded so rapidly that we're not sure whether the typical American has gained anything from rising productivity. (p. 124)

Economics isn't Krugman's only focus, however. He notes with dismay the MSM complicity with the militarism we gained from rising Bushism:

Initial success in Afghanistan was treated as a huge achievement for the Bush administration, as if tipping the balance of power in a third-World civil war were the equivalent of D-day. Minor details like Osama bin Laden's escape from the mountains of Tora Bora were ignored. (p. 204)

and assesses the Iraq sleight-of-hand this way:

The script called for a blitzkrieg, a victory parade, and then another round of tax cuts. This required assuming that everything would be easy, and dismissing warnings from military experts that it probably wouldn't work out that way. (p. 205)

Lulled by Commander Codpiece's "Mission Accomplished" address, and blind to the reality of flag-draped coffins, some Americans aren't far from believing that Iraq did work out that way. They also appear to have forgotten what Krugman points out: Liberalism is responsible for much of what is worth conserving about America today. Adlai Stevenson, one of the great mid-century liberals, provides my Quote of the Day:

"The strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party in the country--the party dedicated to conserving all that is best and building solidly and safely on these foundations. The Republicans, by contrast, are behaving like the radical party--the party of the reckless and embittered, bent on dismantling institutions which have been built solidly into our social fabric." (p. 266, Adlai Stevenson, quoted from Peter Viereck, "The New Conservatism")


With the long-awaited recent demise of TimesSelect, Krugman's op-eds are freely available here from the NYT; there is an Unofficial Paul Krugman Archive. His blog is here.

Andrew Leonard at Salon

Matthew Yglesias at The Atlantic

NYT review and Krugman's response

Michael Tomasky at NYRB

Peter Beinart at NYT

tristero at Hullabaloo

Nicholas von Hoffman at TruthDig

interview at BuzzFlash

interview with James Harris at TruthDig

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on December 2, 2007 11:32 PM.

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