I don’t know too much about Tyler Cowen. I know that Bobo and McMegan quote him approvingly, which is… yeah. I know that he is supposed to be a brilliant academic. Whate’er. He’s in an argument with Krugman, which started with a post by Alex Tabarrok and then Krugman responded and then Cowen weighed in and then Krugman took another shot.
So, here’s what caught my eye. In Cowen’s response, he suggests that Krugman pick the strongest austerity arguments and rebut them with a Thucydides sprinkled on top (no, seriously):
How about writing a NYRB essay that lays out the short-run negative output gradient to austerity, presents why austerity is considered a serious option nonetheless, discusses catch-up and bounce back effects and their relevant time horizons, analyzes what kinds of policies are actually possible in a 17 (27) nation collective, engages with the best public choice arguments (including Buchanan and Wagner) on a serious level, ponders the merits and demerits of worst case thinking, and ruminates on the nature of leadership in a way which shows some tussling with Thucydides and Churchill? Surely that is within Krugman’s capabilities and if it still comes out Keynesian or left-wing, great, at least someone will have seen those arguments through. Such an essay would stand a far greater chance of influencing me, or other serious readers, or for that matter President Obama.
Most of the time I wanna swear, I think about it for a second and don’t because
prospective employers will read this blog when I apply for jobs swearing doesn’t add much to writing. But seriously. What the fuck is Cowen talking about? Barack Obama is going to take Krugman more seriously if Krugman zooms out to ten thousand feet and waxes poetic about Greek playwrights who have been dead for more than 2,000 years? Jesus tapdancing Christ.
Obama is worried about being reelected and the biggest influence w/r/t that is the economy. Not Thucydides. Many of Obama’s most dedicated voters (and a fair amount of those who have disposable income, I’d wager) listen to Krugman, making his current mode of communication pretty damn important to Obama already. Most importantly, Krugman is the best around at taking extremely complex subjects and making them easily digestible for the rest of us, which is precisely the opposite of what Cowen is asking Krugman to do. And that makes Krugman worth more than all of the solemn, staid, sober professors that Cowen can find in academia.
UPDATE: Also too Whiskey Fire.