Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Paul Krugman: Not Insane?

It is Tuesday, and the combined wrath of the blogosphere is visited upon Paul Krugman’s current missive (“Bush = Le Pen”).

Kaus! Dreck! Sullivan! Taranto! Volokh! Galt!

The list is formidable. The criticisms biting and telling.

But something is missing. Something has been overlooked! There ARE signs of progress that should be encouraged:


Indeed, one can FEEL his internal struggle NOT to give in this time. The battle is close, but for once he is strong. WE ARE WITH YOU PAUL!

Of course it’s just embarrassing that he suggests that Jean-Marie Le Pen is really George Bush or Tom Delay or John Ashcroft or Martha Stewart or Julia Child (her husband was a CIA agent in Paris, you know!) or whoever it is Le Pen is really supposed to be. I can’t really figure out from the column exactly who Le Pen is really supposed to be on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps Mr. Krugman is planning a promotional sweepstakes and we're all supposed to vote? Like Keynes.

Yes, there are troubling signs his journey is just beginning. For example, he asserts that “there are some important parallels between the earthquake in French politics and recent political events in the United States. Let me draw out those parallels…” But while it’s sadly true that his “parallels” do appear to rather wildly intersect – as if he’s practicing his political geometry on the surface of a sphere - the fact that Mr. Krugman is still one postulate short of a full set shouldn’t blind us to the progress he’s made!

And then there’s that troubling unexplicated line: “And then there's John Ashcroft.” Just what was going on there, Mr. Krugman? Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes. See, I’m sure everyone appreciates your having the Times replace that odd little photo of yourself which made you look so, well, “troubled,” with a slightly larger if still rather odd little photo.

Let us not forget that only a few days ago Mr. Krugman seemed largely to be chalking up the coup in Venezuela to Condoleezza Rice. I think it must have been Condi because nobody else in the Administration was actually named in that column, although she is only quoted as cautioning a restored President Chavez to “respect constitutional processes” – which Mr. Krugman said only made matters worse. I wonder if poor Condi realized how much trouble she was causing?

But that is in the past! Mr. Krugman is clearly making efforts to emerge from the dead past to the living present, to a new life. And if the progress he has made is not unalloyed, that does not make it unreal.

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