Live Free and Die?
By David Henderson
The other day I had some fun with the Cato Institute index of economic freedom across states, which finds Florida the freest and New York the least free. (Is it OK for me to write this, comrade commissar?) As I pointed out, freedom Cato-style seems to be associated with, among other things, high infant mortality. Live free and die! (New Hampshire is just behind Florida.)
With his keen eye, contra Krugmanist Robert Murphy points out two huge problems with this one small paragraph. I had missed both.
I missed the first one because I didn’t immediately go and look at the data that Krugman cites about New Hampshire. But take a look at the last 3 sentences, especially the last two of the three:
As I pointed out, freedom Cato-style seems to be associated with, among other things, high infant mortality. Live free and die! (New Hampshire is just behind Florida.)
Almost anyone reading this would think that New Hampshire is just behind Florida not only in freedom but also in high infant mortality. Otherwise the snarky “Live free and die!” wouldn’t make sense. Well, the first part is correct: New Hampshire is up there on freedom. But the second part? Not so much. Murphy writes:
Yet ironically, as Krugman’s own chart shows, New Hampshire has just about the lowest infant mortality of the 50 states. (This CDC ranking says in 2016 New Hampshire’s infant mortality was the second-lowest in the country, behind only Vermont.)
So, as Murphy points out, Krugman’s joke doesn’t make any sense. Which is too bad because whatever else Paul didn’t have going for him, his humor was often first-rate, as in this case.
The second slip that Murphy notes is one I missed because I don’t read Krugman’s columns as frequently or as carefully as I used to. Murphy writes:
Before diving into the meat of the dispute, let me note something hilarious: Literally the day after Krugman mocks the Cato Institute for ranking U.S. states according to their freedom—such that the state in last place, New York, must be a “socialist hellhole” ha ha—Krugman wrote a column warning his readers that freedom was on the verge of disappearing in America.
Murphy then gives a screen shot showing the contrast:
Is it OK for me to write this, commissar, asks Krugman? Apparently yes on August 26 when he makes fun of other people who care about freedom but not on August 27 when, in his view, we’re not just close, but very close, to becoming another Poland or Hungary.
Murphy, by the way, digs into the Cato study data a lot and has interesting things to say about freedom and where people move.