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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Paul Krugman, "Galt, Gold and God": Burn the Book?

Paul Krugman has a new bugaboo, another man named Paul.

In his previous New York Times op-ed (, Krugman informed us that "Ryanomics is and always has been a con game" and suggested that it won't give rise to a "real debate." Well, in Krugman's Times op-ed of today's date, "Galt, Gold and God" (, Krugman is again devoting overwrought verbiage to the Republican vice presidential candidate, telling us:

"So far, most of the discussion of Paul Ryan, the presumptive Republican nominee for vice president, has focused on his budget proposals. But Mr. Ryan is a man of many ideas, which would ordinarily be a good thing.

In his case, however, most of those ideas appear to come from works of fiction, specifically Ayn Rand’s novel 'Atlas Shrugged.'"

Meanwhile, Krugman's arch-nemesis on the op-ed page of the Times, David Brooks, is also writing today about the Republican congressman from Wisconsin in "Ryan’s Biggest Mistake" (

Sounds like a real debate to me.

But back to Krugman's latest op-ed. Describing "Atlas Shrugged" as "a perennial favorite among adolescent boys," Krugman concludes his opinion piece by declaring:

"[C]onsider the fact that Mr. Ryan is considered the modern G.O.P.’s big thinker. What does it say about the party when its intellectual leader evidently gets his ideas largely from deeply unrealistic fantasy novels?"

My goodness, I can only imagine what Krugman would say about me if I were to tell him that my favorite novels as an adolescent were the works of H. Rider Haggard, including "King Solomon's Mines," "Allan Quatermain," "She," and "Ayesha." Was it really such a tragedy that as a youngster, I wasted so many hours allowing my imagination to take me on adventures throughout Africa. And although I can no longer remember these novels' plot lines, I believe that everything I read contributes to my ability to create, construct, assimilate and solve.

Tell us, Krugman, what did you read as a child? Have these books distracted you in the pursuit of your life's mission? Or, can you look back with joy at these novels, which unbeknownst to you, have contributed to your innermost self?

What do I think? Thank goodness for the joy bestowed upon me as an adolescent by H. Rider Haggard. I wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. Ease up, JG.
    Krugman is not opposed to a teen reading speculative fiction. He just doesn't want it to end there.

  2. And here I thought John Maynard Keynes was Krugman's be all and end all. Personally, I don't care much for hero worship or dogmatism as regards inexact sciences such as economics. I do favor discussion and debate without name calling or personal smears, e.g., "fraud" or "con game."

  3. Jeff,
    There is a problem with Ryan. A Catholic CAN'T be "randist." If someone claims that he is both, he's a fraud.

  4. I'm sure many, many bookish adolescents have read and been mesmerized by "Atlas Shrugged" over the years (Ryan reportedly encountered the book when he was 16). However, I would say most have cleared their heads by the time they emerge from middle school. That a man in a position of leadership in one of our major legislative bodies is still touting that sophomoric, pseudo-intellectual foolishness in public has got to disturb any mature, rational person. That he would ostensibly make it the philosophical underpinning of his economic policy to be imposed on the nation is a disqualifier for national office.

  5. JH, are you the one who is going to decide who is to be disqualified? If so, I want Todd Akin disqualified immediately for his despicable "legitimate rape" comment. I also want Obama disqualified immediately for listening to 20 years of the Reverend Wright's racist rants without raising objections and for his stinky real estate deal with convicted felon Tony Rezko.

  6. Yes, JG, I, as a voter, will be one of the ones who decides who is to be disqualified. And that would include Todd Akin (for shear stupidity if nothing else), were I a registered voter in his state and able to weigh in on his suitability for office. Your comment about Obama and Reverend Wright is a non sequitur: as far as I can tell, Obama has never tried to elevate any Wright-ian screed to the level even of national discourse, let alone fiscal or economic policy. No one is disqualified by their private thoughts (else I would be in jail); they are disqualified by public pronouncements that reveal their intellectual bankruptcy and potential to inflict mass harm. And if we're going to pursue the "guilt by association" route, vis-a-vis Tony Rezko, I say let he that is without guilt cast the first stone. I don't see evidence of you being able to make the distinction between issues that rise to the level of public policy debate and mere private peccadilloes.

  7. "... And that would include Todd Akin (for shear stupidity if nothing else) . . ."

    I think you meant sheer stupidity.

    1. Thank you, JG. I stand corrected. As a former engineer, i am evidently still caught up in the vernacular of stress analysis =P

  8. Yeah, sure, there would be no problem with a public official attending KKK meetings provided he/she "never tried to elevate any [KKK] screed to the level even of national discourse."

    1. Please consider the rest of my statement. Whether one is a public official or a private citizen, there is a level of personal prejudice or even vendetta that doesn't rise to the level of the public 's business if it doesn't become an element of one's public persona or policy. Henry Ford may have been a virulent anti-semite, but he is still revered as one of our greatest industrialists. John Kennedy may have been banging a mafia moll, but he still inspired a nation. Grow up, anonymous.

    2. Ford's publication, the "International Jew," and his published claims that Jewish bankers were responsible for both World Wars were not part of Ford's public persona and should not have risen to the level of the public's business? Ford's publication of this trash was denounced by President Wilson, former Presidents Taft and Roosevelt, Clarence Darrow, and William Jennings Bryan. They should have ignored Ford's virulent racism owing to his development of the assembly line?

      In today's Internet world, a president found cheating on his wife and sleeping with an underworld moll would no longer be inspiring a nation. Consider what has happened to Spitzer, Craig and Weiner. Their conduct should have been ignored?

      JH, think a little before asking others to "grow up."

    3. "Grow up"? JH is living in the past.

    4. Puerile moralizing aside, human nature is complex, and people are often not entirely what they seem; at least there are parts of their nature that the public never sees. Henry Ford had the balls and stature to be a public bigot, but there were plenty of closet anti-semites of prominence in his day--and today. For a historical example, who would have thought that Harry Truman--the same Harry Truman who successfully prosecuted the conclusion to WWII and helped usher in the jewish state--at one point in his life had a brief dalliance with the ideology of the Ku Klux Klan and secretly expressed his hatred for jews in his personal diaries? Did I say human nature is complex? Or on a more contemporary note, consider Bill Clinton, a serial philanderer with the sexual mores of a particularly horny alley cat--a fact that had to be known to anyone with a television or access to a newspaper. The American public elected him to the presidency anyway. And he turned out to be the arguably the canniest politician of the 20th century and a pretty fair president by most people's estimation. Today, he is the elder statesman of the Democratic Party and, through his foundation, a tireless advocate for the Haitian people and other international philanthropic causes. Personal failings aside, he still commands the national and international stage and does more good through his foundation than most of us can even dream of doing. So really, so much for the puerile moralizing. It's really tiresome.

  9. The fact that Ryan shouldn't be elected/co-elected doesn't mean the Obama was/is qualified. The decision that I "would rather die than vote for him" was made by me early (at the beginning of 2007) and fast (and I am a Social Democrat and pomposity is not in my style).
    Unlike most (99.99999%) of Americans I am extremely sensitive to demagoguery and voting for someone who precedes his run with some fairy tales for the feeble minded ("autobiography"), then runs on "Hope, unity, change" was out of the question.
    It's sad that people don't understand how much contempt Obama has for his electorate. Well, he has good reasons ...
    Educated population doesn't vote for charlatans.
    I must admit I had a slight hope that there were some sensible Republicans and that Romney would choose some Theodore Roosevelt and maybe, maybe I would be able to vote for this ticket. He didn't and I am not voting.
    Speaking of meetings. Sadly, there is no difference now between "charming" Neo-Nazis and "charming" pseudo-left and when attending Weather underground meetings one can enjoy the company of Neo-Nazi "charmers."
    My ex-friend who always presented herself as "left" and "progressive" is now firmly in some neo-Nazi camp in Southern California.

  10. This article does not engage a single point that Krugman makes. It is simply trying to distract the reader. Krugman is clearly not concerned with what Ryan or you read as a child. If you were a member of a Quatermain society and had given speeches about how your foreign policy was based on a speech by Umslopogas than I think you might have a valid comparison.

    1. Thanks, Bret, but you miss the point. US budget deficits are unsustainable. Paul Ryan has focused attention on the problem.

      Are Ryan's solutions viable? According to Peter Orszag, Obama's director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2009 to 2010, they are not (see his reasoned opinion piece: However, Orszag is keenly aware of the deficit problem and the need to find a fix.

      I believe that rational debate leads to solutions. Ryan's proposals have prompted Orszag's intelligent response.

      I don't think focusing on Ryan's partiality to Atlas Shrugged, misplaced or not (I'm not a fan), or labeling him a "fraud," contributes to that debate.