Krugman and Bastiat: Confusing the Centuries
By David Henderson
In a post yesterday, I asked readers to say who they thought is the modern counterpart of Bastiat. I should have specified that I meant someone who’s still alive; otherwise, I think libfree’s, Michael J. Green’s, Will Ruger’s, and Daniel P. Kuehn’s nomination of Milton Friedman is valid. (Although Milton was so much more than Bastiat: he had the skills to make basic economics clear, but he was also a major contributor to economic research.)
Karl Smith nominated Paul Krugman, as did Joshua Gans in the blog post that motivated me to write the post. Had I asked this question in, say, 1999, I think Karl would have a point. But I had in mind someone writing about these issues today. I checked all 5 Krugman articles that Karl cited to make his case and here’s the interesting thing: all were written in the 1990s. The best of the 5, in my view, is Krugman’s 1997 piece defending “sweatshops.” By the way, Krugman covers much of the same ground I covered a year earlier in this Fortune piece and in my response to Robert Reich’s criticism.
Here’s a test for those who still nominate Krugman: I can’t imagine Krugman writing that article today. Can you?