Public Intellectualism

by Shihang

Rather strongly worded argument on the blogosphere between Paul Krugman and Tyler Cowen, where Mr. Cowen accuses Krugman of demonising his opponents and being lazy constructing his case, and Mr. Krugman retorts that he is trying to affect policy rather than engage in academic niceties.

I actually like a lot of what Cowen is saying. It is pretty clear that Krugman is not Humean, and even if he has thought of what Cowen thought of, he generally does not bother to say it. It is true that Krugman has an ability to make things really clear (almost obvious) and this talent stems from a reductionist dynamic at the core of his thinking. So for a more thorough approach to the issue, Cowen’s suggestion, which is roughly to examine how large the effect Krugman is predicting is going to be over how long, see if there can be anything in the longer run that will make austerity even a plausible option and considering workable policies that might be adopted to the least worst effect (and some wonkish icing on the cake), would be a more convincing argument simply because it is more thorough.

Krugman on the other hand is probably approaching the issue from a different perspective. I don’t think his blog is a place for the sort of rumination Cowen suggests, but as a sort of outreach to a broader audience. Perhaps people search for Krugman more because he writes more generally and more simply for a larger audience (note how he still labels posts wonkish to ward off the fainter of heart). But for people who want to engage with Krugman’s arguments on a deeper level, well, perhaps Cowen is right that there are not that many avenues (not that I know anything at all about his complete bibliography).

After the divisive Christopher Hitchens’s death, yet another issue invoking the theme of what mould a public intellectual should be in.