Thursday, July 28, 2005

More Krugman Twisting and Distorting Facts

I am actually getting a little tired of writing about Krugman, but I can't really help it because he keeps on saying stupid and deceitful things. It doesn't take any particular skill to point this out, just a little intellectual curiousity and a basic competence with a search engine. Take a look at his most recent essay, this time on everyone's favorite subject, the French.

I've been looking at a new study of international differences in working hours by Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser, at Harvard, and Bruce Sacerdote, at Dartmouth. The study's main point is that differences in government regulations, rather than culture (or taxes), explain why Europeans work less than Americans.

If you actually read the study though, you will find he is leaving out a rather important step. It wasn't government regulations that just spontaneously caused this phenomenon, it was the government acting in response to pressure from unions, who advocated this in a failed attempt to increase employment.

In this paper, we argue that European labor market regulations, advocated by unions in declining European industries who argued "work less, work all" explain the bulk of the difference between the U.S. and Europe. These policies do not seem to have increased employment, but they may have had a more society-wide influence on leisure patterns because of a social multiplier where the returns to leisure increase as more people are taking longer vacations.

Why is this small distinction important? Well partly because he certainly doesn't want to point out the failure of union and government intervention in the economy, but also because Krugman has been pressing the "government is good" and "Republicans hate government" therefore "Republicans are bad" argument in many of his recent columns.

Modern American politics is dominated by the doctrine that government is the problem, not the solution. In practice, this doctrine translates into policies that make low taxes on the rich the highest priority, even if lack of revenue undermines basic public services. You don't have to be a liberal to realize that this is wrong-headed. Corporate leaders understand quite well that good public services are also good for business. But the political environment is so polarized these days that top executives are often afraid to speak up against conservative dogma.

And here

Above all, we need to put aside our anti-government prejudices and realize that the history of government interventions on behalf of public health, from the construction of sewer systems to the campaign against smoking, is one of consistent, life-enhancing success.

Krugman can't portray government acting in response to social or organizational pressure, especially in a case where its action did not achieve the desired results, it has to be shown acting out of its own wisdom to fit his worldview, otherwise he might have to admit that our present government, is just the result of the constituency, the American people, who continue to vote it in.