United Kingdom

Paul Krugman, the Doctor, Now Trying to Screw Up Another Country

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Somebody needed to say it.

New York Times columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman is no longer content to keep poisoning the United States. In a recent column he urged the United Kingdom to adopt the same economic quackery he has been recommending to the Obama Administration for two years now—exponentially expanding debt, destruction of the currency, universal welfare and total centralization of the economy. You can see how well trillion-dollar deficits are working out on this side of the pond, but fortunately the UK media still have prominent commentators who are willing to oppose Krugman's all-bloodletting-all-the-time approach. Daily Telegraph assistant editor Jeremy Warner asks the question on everybody's mind: "Will someone please shut Krugman up?"

The striking thing about my last two visits to the US is just how worried by the deficit most Americans are. Indeed they are ashamed by it, and rightly take the view that unless it is tackled soon, it will seriously undermine America's long term economic prospects, not to mention its positions in the world. Obama's failure to realise this, and to continue to force a minority liberal agenda down everyone's throat, is the reason he's lost the plot. To restore his presidency, he needs to move towards the centre, and that includes the construction of a robust deficit reduction plan that begins with dispatch.

Professor Krugman suggests that Britain has nothing to fear from excessive public debt, which is still as things stand below its long run historical average. He's technically right about this, but like a lot of statistics used to support a particular, ideological position, it's completely meaningless. Looking at the path of UK public debt as a percentage of GDP, there have indeed been quite long periods when it has been much higher than it is now, but these periods mainly coincided with prolonged and all embracing war – first the Napoleonic wars, then later the Boer war and the first world war. Britain had barely recovered from the financial consequences of the first world war by the time the second world war hit.

The big point missed by those who think elevated public debt doesn't matter is that these periods of excessive debt utterly crippled the UK economy. Indeed, Britain's decline through the twentieth century as an economic superpower directly correlates with increased indebtedness. Fighting wars is not good for economic health.

Warner gets extra credit for eschewing the absurd honorific "Dr. Krugman," which is frequently applied to the pundit you'd least want to have on hand when somebody has a stroke. "Professor"—which is what you call the piano player in a whorehouse—is the only proper title for the artist formerly known as Paul Krugnuts.