Man Without Qualities

Monday, October 27, 2003

My Letter To Tom ...

... Maguire, that is.

Referring to Don Luskin's comments on Paul Krugman's recent apologia for "the anti-Semitic diatribe by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad," Tom suggested:

[I]t seems like an unnecessary stretch to argue that he is on Mahathir's payroll, or has gone soft on anti-Semitism for cash.

Which occassioned this response from the Man Without Qualities:

I don't think Don has argued that Krugman is on Mahathir's payroll. But it certainly is a fair question to ask who paid the bills when Krugman flew to Malaysia. Since Malaysia is pretty well infested with government/business "cronyism" (one of Krugman's favorite topics!), it seems fair to expect that the Malaysian government had a lot to do with paying those bills.

Once Krugman admits that his host directly or indirectly paid his bills (assuming that's true), it's another analysis to determine whether or to what extent Krugman has been distorting or "softening" his Malaysia coverage on account of such goodies.

I tend to think that (1) the Malaysian government did directly or indirectly pay for Krugman's junket, (2) he has not changed or softened his Malaysia coverage for cash or because of goodies purchased for him by the Malaysian government, directly or indirectly, but (3) he has probably distorted and "softened" his Malaysia coverage (including the way he presents the anti-semitism of his host and likely goodie-giver) on account of the intellectual flattery inherent in the Malaysian government seeking his counsel and following his advice (at least as a matter of parallel play), and his trip was likely part of that seduction.

Krugman needs to feel that he is IMPORTANT. He is no longer an important academic economist. All that seems to leave him open to intellectual seduction - even to the point of blinding him to much flagrant evil, as we see in this incident.

His willingness to flatter the hideous Malaysian prime minister because the prime minister flatters Krugman by following policies Krugman advocates (to the point of slobbering over Mahathir's "cageiness" and high intelligence and playing down his anti-Semitism) is just the mirror image of Krugman's obsessive dislike of a decent American president who doesn't follow policies Krugman advocates (to the point of blithering over Bush's supposed lack of intelligence and merit and inventing coded and unsupportable charges of anti-Semitism against him).

It's hard to feel sorry for Krugman, even as he is callously manipulated by the "cagey" Mahathir. Just as Krugman trafficks in the legitimacy of Princeton and the NY Times, the Malaysian dictator trafficks in the legitimacy of Krugman's positions in academics and journalism. Yes, it's pathetic - there's no fool like an academic fool. But Krugman brings it on himself with his bloated and overly sensitive ego - which needs to be seriously and constantly pricked for his own good.

In other words, Don Luskin's savaging Krugman is a work of charity towards Krugman himself. As the old saying goes, "Sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind."

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