Almost Everything Paul Krugman Says in This Awful Column About Gary Johnson Is Wrong

Economist, heal thyself



Fellow millennials, Paul Krugman isn't mad at us. He's just, well, a little disappointed—disappointed that so many are shirking their obligation to fall in line behind the Democratic Party candidate, thus imperiling the future of this great nation.

In his latest screed, Krugman—a one-dimensional partisan operative still somehow masquerading as the in-house economist for The New York Times' op-ed pages—excoriates young voters as not merely reckless, but actively dangerous, given their penchant for supporting third-party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. Especially Gary Johnson.

Taking note of Johnson's impressive poll numbers among millennials, Krugman rejects the idea that these voters could possibly like Johnson because they agree with his views, or consider him the most honest and forthright option. According to Krugman, Johnson's young supporters are probably clueless idiots who don't know that all libertarians want to return society to the age of robber-barons. And if their goal is register a protest vote again Clinton, they are acting immaturely by helping to elect Donald Trump.

"Your vote matters, and you should act accordingly — which means thinking seriously about what you want to see happen to America," writes Krugman.

In other words, millennials should think seriously about what Paul Krugman wants to see happen to America: the election of Hillary Clinton as its president.

Unsurprisingly, Krugman's column makes some unfair and likely incorrect logical leaps. He begins by asserting that Johnson and Stein's high favorability among young people hurts Clinton. But, as Bleeding Heart Libertarians blogger Jacob T. Levy explains, Johnson's overall base is pulling slightly more voters from the Trump camp than the Clinton camp. It's Stein who draws almost entirely from Clinton. Levy writes:

On current evidence, the Libertarian ticket is having a largely neutral but slightly pro-Clinton effect on the race as a whole, and this fact is being widely misreported because people are improperly lumping together the effects of Johnson and Stein, then attributing that effect to the Libertarians along in a classic fallacy of division.

It's simply not the case that Johnson's candidacy is, on the whole, hurting Clinton. The evidence suggests the opposite.

Krugman, to be fair, is talking specifically about young people. He just doesn't understand how they could possibly support the nominee of the Libertarian Party—the party that wants to "eliminate environmental regulation, abolish the income tax, do away with public schools, and dismantle Social Security and Medicare."

Of course, those are generic libertarian policy positions, not Johnson's positions. For example, Johnson doesn't want to "dismantle" Social Security and Medicare—he told CBS News explicitly that he wants to reform these programs, rather than eliminate them.

Krugman has mischaracterized Johnson's views on a host of issues. But the issues Krugman ignores are even more telling. The average millennial isn't just going to vote for the candidate offering the most robust welfare state. They care about things like reforming drug laws and staying out of pointless wars, too. And on these issues, even Krugman would likely have to admit that Johnson is clearly more palatable. That's why he omits these issues from his calculus on why millennials who support Johnson are making a huge mistake.

Lastly, Krugman demonstrates impressively un-economic thinking when he asserts—actual math be damned—that each voter must treat his or her vote as if it's the deciding one. In reality, an individual voter has effectively zero chance of influencing the outcome of a national election, so everybody might as well vote for the candidate they like best, if they vote at all. For an impressive number of millennials—who do not feel bound to obey the two-party duopoly that produces horribly flawed candidates year after year—that person is Johnson.

If Krugman were capable of looking beyond his extremely strong partisan biases, he might better understand the appeal of a non-Trump, non-Clinton candidate.