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Occupy Wall Street: No to Paul Krugman!

October 5, 2011

All of us on the left are very hopeful the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations will continue to expand and ultimately ignite a spark for true progressive change.  Many on the center and center-left though are trying to corral this movement and channel it into safe, familiar, and centrist territory.  Look no further than Ezra Klein’s article today in the Washington Post in which Paul Krugman is mentioned as a possible intellectual leader ready to command his troops.  Watch out, “Krugman’s Army may be on its way.”  Krugman points to this article and I’m sure he’s ready to accept command if offered.

As anyone who’s read this blog will know, I think it will be very disappointing if the protestors end up developing their demands around the views of a centrist such as Paul Krugman.  It’s a real risk since Krugman, with his perch on the New York Times and his Nobel prize under his belt, is widely seen as a key intellectual on the left, the very “conscience of a liberal”.

I can see Krugman’s army marching proudly into lower Manhattan with bright flags and posters all proclaiming their leader’s vision.  The sad truth though is that the banners would read something like this:

Don’t Print Money!

Never Permit Unemployment to Fall Below the Natural Rate!

We Need a 5% Consumption Tax!

No Fiscal Policy Unless We’re at the Zero Bound!

Thank You Multinational Corporations for Reducing Global Poverty!

Bad Jobs at Bad Wages are Better than No Jobs at All!

Let’s Praise Cheap Labor!

Inflation is the Solution!

Capitalism is Good!

While surprising to many, these are all positions held by Krugman.  I’ve posted a number of times on this subject, here’s the most recent.  Wall Street and the assorted fans of the status quo will be quite relieved if OWS ends up taking Krugman as their leader.

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4 Comments
  1. Andrew permalink

    I won’t beat up on Krugman, but I’ll note that the protests don’t seem to have a purpose. What are the protesters demanding? Fairness? Equity? Perhaps.

    But I haven’t heard any specific demands on which people can act. Do the protesters just want the bank CEOs to commit harikari? This is why I think being pragmatic is important. It’s not enough just to “throw the bums out.” You should throw the bums out, but you should also be clear what change that is needed.

    Egypt is struggling with this today. As is Iraq. As is Afghanistan…

  2. “What are the protesters demanding?”

    They are not satisfied wit the results. Just like Abba Lerner said that the government financial actions taken should be judged by the results. Wall Street occupiers are not financial experts to know exactly how to fix the system.

    The same principple applies when nuclear power station blows up. I don’t know how to make these plants safer, yet I am not happy with the results.

  3. Lots of people are asking what the protests are really about but few make a concerted effort to find the answer, let alone appreciate the challenges in pseudo-cohesive social movements (particularly global ones, which are new to us). Check out Shamus Cooke’s balanced and inciteful article on this subject: Fuel for Occupy Wall Street’s Fire – bit.ly/noL7

    As for me, I’ve almost always enjoyed Krugman’s pieces and didn’t realize he was so criticized as a centrist. I think at the very least, it’s rare that a major pub would give an outlet to a writer like him. He may not be a socialist or an anarchist (is he really anything in particular?) but he certainly is not status quo. And he’s not full of shit. It’s a good place to start when it comes to mainstream media.

    • Andrew permalink

      How do you mean that he isn’t status quo? Only in the most conservative of lights is he not status quo. He doesn’t tow the Republican line, if that’s what you mean, but in general, Krugman thinks that the way that the economy is set up is good and that if we just enforce some rules and regulate where necessary, everything will be hunky dory.

      Krugman believes that the current monetary system is good and even necessary. But he doesn’t understand banking well. He also doesn’t have any issues with continuous growth in the economy, which is NECESSARY for capitalism to work. Read about Lerner and Minsky, who weren’t radicals as such, but brought to light fundamental problems in the system that Krugman writes about as if it’s a given.

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