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Krugman vs Ferguson - the gloves are off!!

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  • #46
    Krugman is talking common-sense -- long may he continue to do so


    • #47
      Don't need Prugman to point out that PM Wen needs to rethink his currency policy, but his view on protectionism is ... unexpected. WoW.

      there’s the claim that protectionism is always a bad thing, in any circumstances. If that’s what you believe, however, you learned Econ 101 from the wrong people — because when unemployment is high and the government can’t restore full employment, the usual rules don’t apply.
      Op-Ed Columnist - Chinese New Year -

      January 1, 2010
      Op-Ed Columnist
      Chinese New Year

      It’s the season when pundits traditionally make predictions about the year ahead. Mine concerns international economics: I predict that 2010 will be the year of China. And not in a good way.

      Actually, the biggest problems with China involve climate change. But today I want to focus on currency policy.

      China has become a major financial and trade power. But it doesn’t act like other big economies. Instead, it follows a mercantilist policy, keeping its trade surplus artificially high. And in today’s depressed world, that policy is, to put it bluntly, predatory.

      Here’s how it works: Unlike the dollar, the euro or the yen, whose values fluctuate freely, China’s currency is pegged by official policy at about 6.8 yuan to the dollar. At this exchange rate, Chinese manufacturing has a large cost advantage over its rivals, leading to huge trade surpluses.

      Under normal circumstances, the inflow of dollars from those surpluses would push up the value of China’s currency, unless it was offset by private investors heading the other way. And private investors are trying to get into China, not out of it. But China’s government restricts capital inflows, even as it buys up dollars and parks them abroad, adding to a $2 trillion-plus hoard of foreign exchange reserves.

      This policy is good for China’s export-oriented state-industrial complex, not so good for Chinese consumers. But what about the rest of us?

      In the past, China’s accumulation of foreign reserves, many of which were invested in American bonds, was arguably doing us a favor by keeping interest rates low — although what we did with those low interest rates was mainly to inflate a housing bubble. But right now the world is awash in cheap money, looking for someplace to go. Short-term interest rates are close to zero; long-term interest rates are higher, but only because investors expect the zero-rate policy to end some day. China’s bond purchases make little or no difference.

      Meanwhile, that trade surplus drains much-needed demand away from a depressed world economy. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that for the next couple of years Chinese mercantilism may end up reducing U.S. employment by around 1.4 million jobs.

      The Chinese refuse to acknowledge the problem. Recently Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, dismissed foreign complaints: “On one hand, you are asking for the yuan to appreciate, and on the other hand, you are taking all kinds of protectionist measures.” Indeed: other countries are taking (modest) protectionist measures precisely because China refuses to let its currency rise. And more such measures are entirely appropriate.

      Or are they? I usually hear two reasons for not confronting China over its policies. Neither holds water.

      First, there’s the claim that we can’t confront the Chinese because they would wreak havoc with the U.S. economy by dumping their hoard of dollars. This is all wrong, and not just because in so doing the Chinese would inflict large losses on themselves. The larger point is that the same forces that make Chinese mercantilism so damaging right now also mean that China has little or no financial leverage.

      Again, right now the world is awash in cheap money. So if China were to start selling dollars, there’s no reason to think it would significantly raise U.S. interest rates. It would probably weaken the dollar against other currencies — but that would be good, not bad, for U.S. competitiveness and employment. So if the Chinese do dump dollars, we should send them a thank-you note.

      Second, there’s the claim that protectionism is always a bad thing, in any circumstances. If that’s what you believe, however, you learned Econ 101 from the wrong people — because when unemployment is high and the government can’t restore full employment, the usual rules don’t apply.

      Let me quote from a classic paper by the late Paul Samuelson, who more or less created modern economics: “With employment less than full ... all the debunked mercantilistic arguments” — that is, claims that nations who subsidize their exports effectively steal jobs from other countries — “turn out to be valid.” He then went on to argue that persistently misaligned exchange rates create “genuine problems for free-trade apologetics.” The best answer to these problems is getting exchange rates back to where they ought to be. But that’s exactly what China is refusing to let happen.

      The bottom line is that Chinese mercantilism is a growing problem, and the victims of that mercantilism have little to lose from a trade confrontation. So I’d urge China’s government to reconsider its stubbornness. Otherwise, the very mild protectionism it’s currently complaining about will be the start of something much bigger.
      “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson


      • #48
        Re: Krugman vs Ferguson - the gloves are off!!

        If you want to see which countries are buying US Treasury Bonds go to this URL;


        • #49
          Just an example of words-in-the-street, I would not go as far as barredrock. I think Wen needs to rethink his RMB policy but Krugman is going downhill, fast.

          China is not the issue here, Dude.
          By: barredrock Sunday January 3, 2010 6:24 pm

          The world’s number one Keynesian, Paul Krugman, has decided to take China to task for pegging its currency, the renmimbi, at artificially low rates. He argues the impact a free float in the USD-RMB would have on the U.S. economy is all to the good:

          Again, right now the world is awash in cheap money. So if China were to start selling dollars, there’s no reason to think it would significantly raise U.S. interest rates. It would probably weaken the dollar against other currencies — but that would be good, not bad, for U.S. competitiveness and employment. So if the Chinese do dump dollars, we should send them a thank-you note.

          Op-Ed Columnist - Chinese New Year -

          This is insane, both empirically and logically. I know of no instance where a country improved its standard of living by devaluing its currency, and neither, I suspect, does Krugman.

          Krugman claims the world is awash in cheap money looking for somewhere to invest, and that absent China, foreign reserve banks would happily, stupidly, buy US Treasurys. Is he for real? Is that why the Indian central bank just bought $7 billion worth of IMF gold?

          When central banks of countries such as Japan, Saudi, Singapore are buying Treasurys it’s all on the short end of the curve. If Krugman thinks central banks are lined up around the block to buy 10 year notes (let alone 30 yr bonds), he’s out to lunch. Would *you* buy a 30 yr bond for 5%? Right. Neither would anyone else.

          So let’s put our thinking caps on and work out what would likely happen with an RMB float.

          1) The RMB (a.k.a. the yuan) would rise to its "market clearing rate", determined by the supply and demand of the currency.

          2) Chinese exports would fall, swiftly and sharply. But;

          3) Chinese citizens’ purchasing power would rise with the value of their currency, enabling them to buy for themselves lots of goods (appliances, flat-screen TVs, etc.) they currently send to us (and lend us the money to buy in the first place!)

          4) Demand for Treasurys and dollars would drop and thus so would their value. Just as Chinese standards of living would RISE with a rising yuan, our living standards would FALL, sharply and swiftly.

          5) We would no longer be able to export our number one commodity: inflation. We’d own it. The Seventies on steroids, without the bell-bottoms and Coppola movies.

          6) Unable to export our inflation, the dollar continues to lose value, our bonds become less attractive, interest rates rise, and our purchasing power is diminished. We will be competing with strong Yen, strong RMB, strong Canadian and Australian dollars, with our shitass currency to buy commodities, capital goods, and, of course, credit.

          Make no mistake: a free floating RMB would precipitate a currency crisis in this country. If you thought the market action in 2008 was exciting, wait until you see what a collapsing dollar would look like. Imagine everyone trying, as fast as possible, to dump the unit of account, store of value, and medium of exchange for a 14 trillion dollar economy. Awesome possum!

          Paul Krugman is the Iraqi Information Minister of macroeconomics. Solitary and defiant, he stands before the cameras and claims Victory! as the tanks of foreign occupiers roll past in the background. How anyone, let alone an economist of Krugman’s (admittedly mainstream) stature can argue that devaluing our currency is good for Americans beggars belief.

          The Seminal China is not the issue here, Dude.
          “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson


          • #50
            Not directly related to Krugman vs. Ferguson, but once again, an example of Dr. Krugman vs. Mr. Krugman.

            Mirror, Mirror -

            By JAMES TARANTO

            Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman takes note in his New York Times column of what he calls "the incredible gap that has opened up between the parties":

            Today, Democrats and Republicans live in different universes, both intellectually and morally.
            "What Democrats believe," he says "is what textbook economics says":

            But that's not how Republicans see it. Here's what Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, had to say when defending Mr. Bunning's position (although not joining his blockade): unemployment relief "doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."
            Krugman scoffs: "To me, that's a bizarre point of view--but then, I don't live in Mr. Kyl's universe."

            What does textbook economics have to say about this question? Here is a passage from a textbook called "Macroeconomics":

            Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker's incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of "Eurosclerosis," the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries.
            So it turns out that what Krugman calls Sen. Kyl's "bizarre point of view" is, in fact, textbook economics. The authors of that textbook are Paul Krugman and Robin Wells. Miss Wells is also known as Mrs. Paul Krugman.

            It seems Krugman himself lives in two different universes--the universe of the academic economist and the universe of the bitter partisan columnist. Or maybe this is like that episode of "Star Trek" in which crewmen from the Enterprise switched places with their counterparts from a universe in which everyone was the same, only evil.

            Like Spock, the evil Krugman is the one with the beard.
            "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3


            • #51

              i agree-- it's punctuated by what's recently came out in the New Yorker a while back; apparently his op-eds are co-written/heavily edited by his wife, whom is a much more partisan character.
              There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov


              • #52
                wait..but if i remember that show right (but I mgiht be wrong) Spock was good in both universes, beard or no beard. It was everyone else who was evil.


                • #53
                  Just finish Ferguson's complexity-and-collapse. Love the painting.

                  Complexity and Collapse | Foreign Affairs


                  Imperial collapse may come much more suddenly than many historians imagine. A combination of fiscal deficits and military overstretch suggests that the United States may be the next empire on the precipice.

                  NIALL FERGUSON is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, a Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His most recent book is The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.
                  “the misery of being exploited by capitalists is nothing compared to the misery of not being exploited at all” -- Joan Robinson


                  • #54
                    American Thinker: Paul Krugman Gives Up

                    Paul Krugman Gives Up

                    A marvelous thing happened over on Paul Krugman's blog at the New York Times last week. Krugman effectively conceded defeat on a range of economic debates. Who defeated him? People who posted comments on his New York Times blog. Mere commenters.

                    For those who do not know, Paul Krugman is one of the few who still claim that Keynesian progressivism is the answer to America's (and Europe's) problems, not their cause. He repeats that claim many times each month. Amid these repeated expressions of his "progressive" faith, he now also repeatedly expresses grim despair because his progressive policy prescriptions are being accepted less and less in the public square, even by the Obama administration.

                    Krugman is an academic. He has never run a company. He has never created a job. The closest contact he evidently ever had to "business" was as an adviser to Enron, where (in his own words) he was paid $50,000 to help build Enron's "image."

                    This, perhaps, explains the dozen or so points that Krugman makes over and over. Here are a few: Obama's stimulus was too small. Debt is good. Austerity is bad. Deflation is coming. Ken Rogoff, Greg Mankiw, Alberto Alesina (all at Harvard), and other serious economic scientists do not understand economics as well as he does. Those who do not agree with him are "mass delusional." And perhaps Krugman's favorite line: "I was right, of course."

                    Befitting his ideology, Krugman has only one policy to propose, regardless of topic: Transfer more resources from the discipline and dynamism of markets to the inefficiency and cronyism of government.

                    Government-run health care. Government-controlled banks. Government bailouts. High taxes. High spending. Krugman wants it all, just like in Europe (which, in 2008, he called "the comeback continent"). And Krugman has no problems denying economic science and current events to advocate it.

                    With the meltdown in Europe so obviously the consequence of too much Krugmanism and U.S. unemployment near 10% after a trillion dollars in stimulus, Krugman has attracted some criticism.

                    For example, Robert Barro, the distinguished Harvard economist, noted that Krugman "just says whatever is convenient for his political argument. He doesn't behave like an economist." The New York Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent observed that Paul Krugman has "the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults." James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal, after listing the falsities in Krugman's latest piece on climate last week, hazarded that perhaps "Krugman makes himself ridiculous merely to make our job easy."

                    But no matter how low Krugman's fallacious fruit hangs, Krugman has long been comfortable among the acolytes who frequently post on his blog. A representative post is: "Paul, you are a God-send for those of us who appreciate a superior intellect with common sense! Thanks for applying your brilliance." Or this: "Paul, dig deep dude. You are brilliant." It was hardly surprising that last January, Krugman declared, "I love my commenters."

                    No longer.

                    For just as Krugman was declaring his love for his blog commenters last January, people started posting serious rebuttals of Krugman's standard claims about economics. These commenters were not obviously Republican stooges. They were not obviously members of "the political class." They were not obvious ideologues.

                    Rather, the posters simply knew some economic science and how jobs are created and economies grow, perhaps because they were members of "the productive class." And they came prepared to support their rebuttals of Krugman's ideology and his singular policy prescription by facts and peer-reviewed economic science.

                    For six months, they made Krugman's blog one of the more informative and interesting places to hear economics debated. In part, this was because they gave Krugman a serious run. Their posts were long, near the 5,000-character limit set by the New York Times. They were reasoned. They were knowledgeable. They carried citations to economic science literature that one might expect in a Ph.D. dissertation.

                    And so their rebuttals were often decisive.

                    For example, when Krugman a month ago drew one of his famous "trend lines" based on a single point, a blogger named rjh immediately responded, "These trend lines you are drawing all over the place. Pardon my French, they are complete garbage." And nearly half of Krugman's commenters joined to point out that Krugman was arguing junk. Krugman was forced to make two defensive replies; both were immediately refuted.

                    Responding to Krugman's praise for the high taxes in Europe and his repeated denial that tax cuts might stimulate an economy enough to make up for revenues lost, a European posting under his initials jg pointed out that the low Reagan-Clinton tax rates made "being an entrepreneur interesting again. All those internet startups like eBay, Amazon or Netscape would probably never have been created if it weren't possible for the inventors to get rich." This anti-progressive notion that the "evil rich" might actually create growth if they were not taxed -- on his "personal" blog, no less -- must have made Paul spit up his morning coffee.

                    But things got worse for the professor. Matching Krugman's repeated claim that the "stimulus" was too small, Sean produced peer-reviewed economic science from Alesina, who examined 92 attempts at stimulus since 1970 in OECD countries and found that tax cuts, but not spending, stimulated. Krugman stammered a reply, but the damage was done; his acolytes had learned that economic science existed that contradicted Krugman's claim (central to Obama's "stimulus" legislation) that government's spending your money helps an economy.

                    Matching Krugman's claim that government can "create wealth by printing money," several posters cited the latest economic science showing that the "multipliers" that Keynesians use are wrong. They further noted that Krugman had used these wrong multipliers seventeen months ago to predict incorrectly that Obama's stimulus package would keep unemployment below 9%.

                    And so Krugman's blog presented the most unforgivable conclusion: Krugman had actually been wrong. As he had been when he advocated low interest rates and the creation of a housing price inflation in 2001, one of the causes of current economic difficulties.

                    Things then got still worse. When Krugman repeated his claim that Bush's tax cuts had "caused" the deficit and damaged the economy, commenters first taught Krugman how to count. They then cited two papers by the Romers showing that tax cuts help economies. Christina Romer is, of course, the chief economic advisor to President Obama.

                    When Krugman repeated one of his "debt is good" posts, posters linked to the economic science from Reinhardt and Rogoff showing that high debt is inimical to economic recovery.

                    Occasionally, Krugman attempted a reply. For example, he dissembled that Reinhardt and Rogoff had "highlighted" a single postwar American experience, which he dismissed as "spurious." The commenters did not let him get away with it. Within 24 hours, Sean had pointed out that Reinhardt and Rogoff had found similar effects of debt in six countries on three continents over four decades, including Canada, Japan, Greece, and Belgium. Krugman then struggled to find something "spurious" about each of these. Sean's rebuttal showed that Krugman was refusing to meet any burden of proof. Still worse, Samuel showed that Krugman's reasoning, if applied generally, would forever insulate Krugman's ideology from any refutation of any kind.

                    ...Which is perhaps what Paul Krugman wants, but it is not economic science.

                    Krugman's blog commenters were especially relentless in pointing out his inconsistencies. In one post, Krugman admitted that "politicians will always find ways to shield the powerful." Posters piled on, pointing out that Krugman's universal policy prescription gave politicians more power under the assumption that they would defend "the proletariat." Krugman replied that he was "sure that there's a large literature" on government cronyism and corruption. Secure in his big-government ideology, he admitted that he had never read that literature. But like the ideologue that he is, Krugman then expressed his faith (the only word appropriate) that "bureaucracy will do a heckuva job" if it is not "downgraded and devalued." Bloggers responded by citing the latest economic science showing the impossibility of Krugman's "utopian dictatorship-by-bureaucracy."

                    Paul Krugman has spent his career as a pundit advocating that government bureaucrats and political process replace markets. He knows that there is a large literature that says that this is a bad idea. That literature is transparently relevant to Krugman's only policy proposal. And yet Krugman has not read it...and admits that he has not read it, without embarrassment.

                    By July, Krugman had lost his "Battle of the Blog." On July 23, Latrina commented, "Who is this Sean from Florida? He takes everything that [the] Professor [says] and shreds it, piece by piece. He shouldn't be allowed to post his comments on this blog since he seems to be winning all the debates. We progressives need to stick together and embellish our talking points without someone from the outside pointing out fallacies in our ideology."

                    Krugman had also had enough. On July 23, Krugman showed that he was clearly no longer "in love" with his commenters. Now he called them "ranters" and "trolls." On July 28, Krugman changed his comment moderation policy. Claiming that "ranters ... say the same thing every time," Krugman announced that he was going to throw away posts longer than "three inches." His thinking must have been thus: Three inches are sufficient to write "Krugman is brilliant," but not sufficient to present a documented and persuasive rebuttal to whichever of Krugman's standard arguments he was peddling that day.

                    Within 24 hours, those outside the Times had taken notice. Stephen Spruiell at the NRO noted the absurdity of Krugman's complaint that bloggers might use the same responses to rebut Krugman's repeated statements of the same ideology. Wrote Spruiell:

                    This [is] from the guy who has spent the entire summer rewriting the same blog post", Spruiell went on to point out that "Krugman's sycophants ... also say the same thing every time." "Krugman's policy seems geared to limit comments to "Yay Dr. K!" "Way to go!" "Keynes was right!" etc.
                    As indeed it has. Krugman's blog the day after the policy change had just six comments the last time I looked. "Hurray," said one. "Awesome!!" said another.

                    In his appearance on Sunday on "This Week," Krugman repeated his attack on Rogoff. He repeated his claim that he, a deflationista, "was right." Regulars could go to Krugman's blog and download the economic science that showed that Krugman was blowing smoke on "This Week," a gig that may pay Krugman more than even Enron.

                    And so after his ride back to Princeton, Krugman pulled the plug. He twice scolded "whiners," claiming that this blog under the New York Times masthead was "a personal not-for-pay venture." He claimed that he was burdened by needing to see if posts contained "obscenities" (none had, other than the "French" cited above). And he declared that he has "no obligation to provide" space for "ranters" and "whiners" who might rebut the ideology that he routinely markets.

                    Of course not. It is his blog. But it is newsworthy that after years of allowing 5,000-character responses consistent with Times policy, Krugman pulled the plug just as he was so obviously losing the debate. The academic world and the business world share something: They both view this as an admission of defeat.

                    Krugman is also "losing the audience." Eighteen months ago, Krugman's progressive ideology that was the consensus of the president, the House, the Senate, and not a few Republicans. Now, the Obama administration is evidently worried that it bought economic snake oil from Keynesians like Krugman. Even Ezra Klein is beginning to question the Keynesian economic models of Blinder and Zandi that "got it so wrong."

                    And so a six-month episode of enlightening economic debate has come to a close. Will Krugman respond to posts on other blogs? We do not know, but routinely in the past, he simply refuses to do so. He is clearly unable to do so, and, surrounded now sycophants and acolytes who tell him how brilliant he is, why should he even bother to try?
                    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3