Freedom

Paul Krugman Thinks You'll Be Happier With Fewer Choices. Nonsense.

It's true that the freedom to make your own decisions comes with both benefits and consequences, but Krugman is squarely focused on just one side of that equation.

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Writing in The New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning columnist Paul Krugman offers a unified theory of everything wrong with America: We're just too free to choose.

Krugman says this is the lesson to be learned from last month's energy crisis in Texas that left some of the state's residents—people who had freely chosen to sign-up for variable rate offerings from their electric service providers—with sky-high bills when demand surged as the state's generating supply crashed. People can't be trusted to choose their electric service, he argues, because some will make ill-informed decisions that come with unexpected costs. From there, he expands this thesis to a general principle, one that he says is to blame for everything from rising health insurance premiums to the subprime mortgage meltdown of a decade ago.

"Many of us are actually offered too many choices, in ways that can do a lot of harm," Krugman argues. "Sometimes people offered too much choice will make bigger mistakes than they imagined possible." That's grounds for denying someone the right to take out a risky mortgage or refusing to deregulate electricity markets, Krugman argues, even though the outcomes he's proposing would leave people with fewer options for obtaining home-ownership and likely paying higher prices for energy.

Indeed, to understand the consequences of limiting choice, just take a look at the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces, which prohibit the purchase of cheap insurance plans that would otherwise be available. They are set up this way for exactly the reasons that Krugman is outlining: because some people might make the "wrong" choice and end up with massive medical bills. The result of that policy is higher premiums for everyone.

But the real kicker is Krugman's contention that "an excess of choice is taking a psychological toll on many Americans, even when they don't end up experiencing disaster."

Nonsense. Krugman is pushing an only slightly more sophisticated version of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) complaints about the wide variety of deodorants available at any American supermarket. Or, if you prefer a more academic take, he's peddling a warmed-over version of The Paradox of Choice, in which psychologist Barry Schwartz argued that a proliferation of choices "no longer liberates" but rather "debilitates" and "might even be said to tyrannize."

That claim has been challenged in subsequent social experiments, including one that reviewed 50 experiments into "choice overload" and found no evidence to support the idea. In fact, a 2009 study found that increasing the number of choices actually leads to people making more reasonable—not riskier or more indulgent—choices, because it is more difficult to justify the outlandish option when so many sensible ones exist.

Psychology aside, it should be obvious that restricting individuals' choices is not a pathway to greater satisfaction. Krugman is right that the freedom to make your own decisions about life's most important things—how to finance a house, how to save for retirement—comes with benefits and consequences, and plenty of stress to boot. But Krugman's argument would suggest that gay Americans were generally happier in the days when the choice to get married was denied to them. By the same token,  were women more content when laws and customs denied them many of the choices they are now free to make every day?

The same is true when it comes to consumption. There aren't 19 flavors of Pop-Tarts and a billion different types of breakfast cereal because Kellogg's is run by a mad scientist who enjoys nothing more than discovering new ways to mash together carbs and food coloring. They exist because the revealed preferences of consumers show that we like having lots of choices.

To be sure, there will always be people who make poor choices—and that includes major, life-altering choices. But Krugman is wrong to fret over the "ideology" of ever-greater choices that "has turned America into a land where many aspects of life that used to be just part of the background now require potentially fateful decisions. You don't get a company pension, you have to decide how to invest your 401(k)."

Before extolling the benefits of having someone else handle your retirement account, however, Krugman might want to take a look at how that's working out. State-run pension plans for government employees are a collective $1 trillion in the red, thanks to a combination of deliberate under-funding and poor investment decisions. Private sector pension systems didn't go nearly extinct because of Milton Friedman's "ideology;" they did so because companies often ran them poorly and left retirees with less than what had been promised.

This is the real blind spot in Krugman's argument, and the question he never bothers asking: namely, who should be making these decisions, if not the individuals subject to the risks?

When it comes to mortgages, electric bills, pensions, health care, and anything else, the person who is going to try their best to make the right choices is the person taking the risk. Putting someone else in charge is no way to reduce the stress of making major life decisions, as Krugman seems to believe it would—it just leaves you powerless.

Human beings are fallible, of course, and some of us like to take risks more than others, so there will always be both winners and losers. That's why the size, scope, and cost of the public safety net—that is, how much the rest of us should invest in helping those who make poor choices or fall on bad luck—is a matter of never-ending debate. And, of course, the government has a role to play in ensuring that outright fraud is not occurring in any marketplace.

But let's not confuse a debate over the government's limited role as a prosecutor of fraud and provider of emergency support to the truly needy for a normative debate over whether we should prefer a world with more or fewer choices.

On that question, there is no debate to be had. A world of proliferating choice is one that includes more possibilities for individual and societal flourishing. Not all choices are beneficial and some consequences of freedom can be painful, but it is beyond bizarre for Krugman to wish away the benefits of the modern world because of a few costly mistakes. It's worse for him to suggest that you shouldn't get to make your own decisions because someone else might have screwed up.

NEXT: Michigan Farmer Rescued Injured Animals Without the Proper Permits. State Officials Have Charged Her With a Misdemeanor and Euthanized the Animals.

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  1. I’m sure having fewer choices can make for a happier life in many ways. The problem is assholes like Krugman who think that that observation from psychology means that anyone gets to decide what choices people should have. If you want to have a simpler life with fewer choices to make, it’s not too hard to set your life up that way. Other people might, you know, want to do something interesting or risky. We do not need economists trying to reduce stress in our lives by reducing options.

    1. What people like Krugman mean when they say ‘too many choices’ is ‘they’re making choices I don’t like, and we need to stop them’.

      And if Texas used the same components as Michigan in their power grid, Krugman would be complaining that they cost too much and they need to dictate cheaper parts by the central authority.

      It’s just the same old circle jerk.

      1. It really wouldn’t have mattered what parts the power grid used. The core problem was this:

        1) The cold massively increased demand for heating, both natural gas and electric.
        2) The natural gas pipelines weren’t winterized, so a number of them stopped working or stopped being able to provide as much.
        3) The generators with the contracts to provide “emergency” power to the grid were natural gas generators.

        So, you had weather conditions where natural gas was in massive demand and reduced supply. As a result, there was not enough natural gas to fire up the generators to meet increased electrical demand. Rolling blackouts were absolutely certain to be necessary as a result.

        The other troubles with the power grid in general exacerbated the situation, yes, but making the grid out of Michigan-style components wouldn’t have done any good. Emergency electrical power pretty much has to be natural gas, because you can’t turn anything else on and off.

        Connection to another grid, so they could yank in electricity from out-of-state, might have helped; on the other hand, it also carries its own risks — just ask the people affected by the Northeast Blackout of 2003, where an error at one utility in Ohio took out power for 55 million people across 8 states and Ontario.

        1. But having all those windmills go down did increase the amount of emergency power needed, and substantially.

          The other problem is that natural gas is cheap enough in Texas, and importantly, easy enough to build, that it isn’t JUST used for emergency/peaking power. Nearly half of Texas’ electricity is from natural gas.

          If they’d only been using gas for peaking an emergencies, they’d have been in a much better position.

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        2. but making the grid out of Michigan-style components wouldn’t have done any good.

          Um…Michigan winterizes the natural gas pipelines and other components (water lines are what actually froze). So YES Michigan-style components would have made ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

          1. But does Michigan plan for 110 degree heat, like Texas does?

            Don’t sneer, since there are huge costs associated with planning for extreme and unlikely events. Costs that no one wants to pay.

            1. We get 100 F temperatures in most Michigan summers. Working on hot equipment on a hot day within a MI power plant that is walled-in so nothing freezes up in the winter must be quite miserable (not that it’s easy in the open air on a hot Texas day) and may require frequently rotating workers between the job and an air-conditioned room or vehicle, but it’s not impossible, and nothing is going to fail from the extra 10 degrees of heat. Michiganders are used to both cold and hot temperature extremes; if you work outdoors, you know how to avoid both frostbite and heatstroke.

              But when your exposed feedwater pipe freezes, your plant is down, and the chances of a Texas plant having the needed spare parts, equipment, and technicians trained in working safely in frostbite weather are poor.

          2. The natural gas pipelines are not “the (electrical) grid”. Work on your reading comprehension.

        3. One word: Nuclear

          1. That’s good for baseline loads. You also need power that can be turned on every afternoon and turned off every night. Except where the geography is good for hydropower, that means natural gas plants these days. (It used to be met with small coal power plants, but these are inefficient and expensive to fit with the exhaust scrubbers, etc., needed to keep them from emitted all sorts of nasty stuff.) And one problem was that when the time came to crank up the peak-load gas plants, often there was not enough gas in the pipes.

            Another problem was that half of even the huge base load plants were affected by gas shortages. Nukes would have been just fine, and coal plants would usually have days to weeks of fuel piled up outside, but the entire national natural gas system works mainly on just-in-time delivery.

            Finally, from what I hear too much of the natural gas delivery depended on electric pumps. If something else shut down the power for a little while, there would be no gas to restart the power plant, and no electricity to deliver the gas. I think these pumps used to be backed up with engines fueled by the gas that was waiting to be pumped, but someone must have cut costs.

    2. “Other people might, you know, want to do something interesting or risky. We do not need economists trying to reduce stress in our lives by reducing options.”

      Choosing a health insurance policy, for example, by a roll of the dice is certainly risky, but most people probably want to make an informed choice. That requires either the onerous task of acquiring medical and actuarial expertise, or taking a leap of faith and putting ourselves in the hands of experts.

      People in Canada and the UK are able, if they choose, to devout their lives to poring over insurance policies and choosing policies they wish to buy. Or they could spend their time doing the things that interest them and still receive insurance coverage automatically without spending any of their precious time on the matter. It’s the leap of faith option, which has proved popular for over half a century and survived many a regime dedicated to destroying public/socialized health care/insurance.

      1. Why would leap of faith by choosing a socialized health insurance plan be any better than a leap of faith by throwing darts to choose a private plan? A public plan designed by “experts” can’t possibly accommodate millions of people with differing preferences.

        1. “…by choosing letting someone else assign you a socialized health insurance plan…”

          Krugman isn’t really trying to save you any bother. He’s trying to put someone else in charge of your life.

          Boehm sees glimpses, but never quite connects the dots.

          1. ” He’s trying to put someone else in charge of your life.”

            I’m not sure that letting a roll of the dice dictate your life is any better. Some people feel more comfortable making informed choices. In an increasingly complex world, this is not always practical. ie It would take years of study to master the details necessary to make an informed choice on health insurance. Life is short. You too will die one day.

            1. “I’m not sure that letting a roll of the dice dictate your life is any better. ”

              Fuck you and your silly strawman formulation.

              He is trying to put someone else in charge of other people’s lives.

              I get that you don’t see a problem. But, let’s be honest, that is entirely because you have no problem with authoritarianism.

              “It would take years of study to master the details necessary to make an informed choice on health insurance.”

              As opposed to the person who spent years studying everything except everyone else’s particular life or their own particular sets of wants, needs, and desires.

              Fuck off slaver.

              1. “It would take years of study to master the details necessary to make an informed choice on health insurance.”

                That’s why there are people who consult in this area. Spend $100 and get it right.

                1. “That’s why there are people who consult in this area”

                  I’m sure there are plenty. But you haven’t been paying attention or are too naive. The problem is that if you want to make an informed choice, you’re right back where you started. Spending $100 doesn’t mean you get it right, It might mean giving $100 to a charlatan who will offer you nothing of value in return and only try to fleece you for more.

              2. “He is trying to put someone else in charge of other people’s lives.”

                No, you misunderstand. If you don’t want to seek medical treatment, I support your decision not to. If you don’t want socialized medicine, I support your choice to oppose it (or try to abolish it in the case of other countries).

                “that is entirely because you have no problem with authoritarianism.”

                No, I have a problem with legalism and bureaucratic busywork. I am appalled at the idea of the daunting task of making an informed choice on a complex issue. I’m lazy and value my freedom. I’m not an authoritarian.

                “As opposed to the person who spent years studying everything except everyone else’s particular life or their own particular sets of wants, needs, and desires.”

                Sorry, but knowing one’s needs, wants and desires is not sufficient to make an informed choice. For that you need knowledge and expertise. I thought I made precisely this point in my original comment here.

            2. Well, I am.

              So do I get to make my own choices or not?

              1. You want to spend your life poring over health insurance policies to find the one you think is best suited to you, go ahead. It’s your life. Don’t expect others to follow your choices. (Unless they have no choice.)

                1. “You want to spend your life poring over health insurance policies to find the one you think is best suited to you…”

                  That you insist what you would do is what anyone else should do is only part of your problem.

                2. Why would I do that?

                  I guess people don’t act the way you think they act.

          2. He’s trying to put TOP MEN in charge of your life.

            1. They’re already in charge.

        2. “Why would leap of faith by choosing a socialized health insurance plan be any better than a leap of faith by throwing darts to choose a private plan?”

          You don’t need to choose a socialized plan. Canadians and British are part of it from the time they are born, if not while still in the womb.

          Some people would not be satisfied choosing a health insurance plan randomly. They are more risk averse and would feel anxiety over not making a properly informed choice. I believe it depends on one’s individual psychology.

          “A public plan designed by “experts” can’t possibly accommodate millions of people with differing preferences.”

          That is true. But they are not intended to do so. They are intended to cover the treatment and cost of medical treatment. People in Britain and Canada have been given ample opportunity to reject socialized medicine/insurance for something you’d feel more comfortable with, but they’ve kept it instead.

          1. If you want to hand over responsibility for your own life, go right ahead.

            Just don’t try to foist that approach on others and pretend that it is for their own good.

            1. “Just don’t try to foist that approach on others and pretend that it is for their own good.”

              Socialism doesn’t work that way. British and Canadians have their system foisted on them from birth, and have evidently decided they like it that way.

          2. In both places you have the option to choose private medical care and insurance. Germany also has a hybrid system.

            Israel has public health care from birth. You can choose between 4 HMOs. However you can buy supplemental private insurance which comes with addition perks, benefits, and better access.

            So there are still choices because that is what people want.

            1. “So there are still choices because that is what people want.”

              I said as much earlier. But at the same time, it’s not necessary to chose anything under a soclialized plan. One is covered automatically. Saves the time and effort that would go into making an informed choice, giving one freedom to spend time doing more interesting things like working, playing, or pursuing hobbies.

          3. Some people would not be satisfied choosing a health insurance plana car. They are more risk averse and would feel anxiety over not making a properly informed choice. I believe it depends on one’s individual psychology.

            1. They call it buyer’s remorse.

    3. some people are smart, others not so much.. when dumb people make bad decisions that hurt themselves or end up costing everybody more money, something should be done.. to start with, schools should kids HOW to think, HOW to make rational decisions, instead of just memorizing whatever their teacher presents to them.. as George Carlin said, “think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize, half the people are dumber than that”..

      1. *schools should “teach” kids …… oops, I might be one of the dunb half..

  2. Autonomy is the key ingredient in happiness.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/bouncing-back/201106/the-no-1-contributor-happiness

    There’s a word for being happy to be shepherded around, and that word is “sheep”.

    1. Ewe could say that.

      1. And if you don’t, they will ram it down your throat.

        1. While you’re gathering wool.

        2. All the while saying, “Mutton to see here.”

        3. You’ll be lambasted.

        4. No need to be sheepish about it.

        5. Kirkland is always fantasizing about shoving things down peoples throats.

      1. It’s hard to be happy when someone else is making choices for you.

        Being poor sucks because poor people have very few options to choose from. Poor people don’t get to pick their jobs, where they live, what car they drive, where they go on vacation, which college their kids will attend, etc., etc. All their choices are circumscribed by their lack of money–and it makes them miserable.

        Working a job you hate and living in place you can’t stand, driving a shitty car, going nowhere on vacation, and having your kids fail miserably amid the distractions of community college are certainly not the key to happiness.

        1. “It’s hard to be happy when someone else is making choices for you.”

          This is why we’re supposed to grow up and leave home.

        2. Krugman might agree with you on those types of items, because there aren’t egregiously bad choices to make in cars, vacations, etc. But then he’d follow it up by saying we should subsidize those who don’t have those options.

          1. “Krugman might agree with you on those types of items, because there aren’t egregiously bad choices to make in cars, vacations, etc”

            There’s this thing called qualitative criteria. Utilitarians have never been able to account for it, and that is why they always fail.

            Whether I work for someone else or myself, drive a motorcycle or a car, live in San Diego or Indiana, spend my vacations snowboarding or hunting, or whether my kids get into good colleges or mediocre ones is extremely important to me–and that is why no one is qualified to make choices for me on my behalf.

            There is no way for one person to take another person’s (or other peoples’) qualitative preferences into consideration in any accurate way. “Experts” can’t even account for a universal value like safety, which I’m willing to compromise to ride a motorcycle on the freeway (because it’s fun) rather than a car.

            This is why we should all be free to make choices for ourselves. This is also why markets should be as free as possible–because markets are nothing but a group of individuals making choices for themselves, and when we’re free to make choices for ourselves, we’re able to account for our own qualitative preferences when we make choices about the benefits and the costs like no one else can.

            Would you rather help pay for your grandchildren’s education and spend your last five years in a wheelchair, or would you rather get a hip replacement? There’s no bad choice there–only qualitative considerations. The idea that Krugman or any other expert can or should make those choices for us on our behalf is laughable, and yet each and every one of us make a dozen qualitative decisions like that every day that impact our quality of life (and that includes the decisions we make about the sorts of vacations we go on and the kinds of vehicles we drive).

            Try to take my motorcycle away, and you’d be surprised how much I care about what kind of vehicle I drive. We’re all a terrible judge of what is and what isn’t important to other people on a qualitative basis. There really is no accounting for taste.

            We’re basically talking about the appeal to authority fallacy. To avoid the appeal to authority fallacy requires a couple of things: 1) The authority needs to be an expert in the field, and 2) There needs to be a consensus among experts in the field. Krugman isn’t an expert on my qualitative preferences, and there is no legitimate consensus about my personal qualitative preferences. How could there be?

            No one is a bigger expert on my qualitative preferences than I am. The only time being an expert in qualitative preferences might make sense is if we were talking about a question of connoisseurship. If you want to know which wine you might like off the wine list, you might ask someone who’s tasted all those wines if you haven’t. We’re not talking about that in the case of Krugman making qualitative judgements for the rest of us. Has Krugman ever rode a motorcycle across Death Valley in the middle of the night, when the stars are so silvery bright, it makes the desert light up like the surface of the moon?

            There is no legitimate consensus among experts about what my qualitative preferences are, and there can’t be.

            1. “This is why we should all be free to make choices for ourselves. ”

              How about the freedom not to choose? This is essentially the choice of Canadians and British with respect to health care/insurance. There is plenty of choice among additional plans should they wish to purchase them, but for the most part they are content with the socialized plan which doesn’t need to be chosen.

              “or would you rather get a hip replacement? There’s no bad choice there–only qualitative considerations.”

              There are many bad choices. There are unscrupulous hip replacers. They don’t necessarily have your best interests at heart. It’s naive to think that qualitative preferences, however sincerely held, are any substitute for knowledge and expertise.

              1. You should consider selling yourself into slavery. It seems like it would suit you.

                1. +1 set of.shackles.

                2. Slavery for me is spending years gaining the expertise in medical and actuarial science necessary to make an informed choice about health insurance. I’d rather spend my time devoted to my family, to my work and to my love of bird watching. More free time for me is the opposite of slavery. That’s the point I tried to make clear.

                  1. “…spending years gaining the expertise in medical and actuarial science necessary to make an informed choice about health insurance.”

                    Seriously? Perhaps if your IQ more than a standard deviation below the mean. It is not rocket science.

                    1. ” It is not rocket science.”

                      It’s worse. I have no patience for lengthy and convoluted bureaucratic busywork characteristic of insurance policies. Given the choice I would avoid it all together and devote my time to more interesting and productive pursuits.

                  2. There are people with expertise in the industry called CONSULTANTS. They can help you keep from insuring yourself for menstruation costs …. well, maybe not you.

                    1. “There are people with expertise in the industry called CONSULTANTS.”

                      Not all consultants are created equally. When it comes to separating the wheat from the chaff, you are right back where you started. You either roll the dice or make an informed choice, which requires knowledge and expertise and the time and effort it takes to acquire them.

              2. There is no choice in Canada. Private health insurance is not allowed for services covered by the public health coverage.

                1. Canadians can choose to vote in a government that promises to do away with socialized medicine. They’ve not done so in 50 years and no major party has run on that platform.

                  1. That’s what a diet of poutine and maple syrup and an encounter with a hockey puck will get you.

              3. I work in health care, very near the Canadian border. When we admit patients from that country, due to trauma or sudden illness while they are travelling, they literally beg to not be sent back for their care, even rehabilitation. Why, you ask? Because t heir health system sucks and they have no fucking choice.

                1. They have a choice. They could scrap socialized medicine/insurance for a system you would find more agreeable. They have that choice at election time every 4 years or so. But in fact they haven’t chosen to scrap their socialism. They’ve kept it going for over half a century.

                  If they don’t want to return to Canada, they’ve probably grown sick of the weather or the tiresome diet of blubber they’re forced to endure.

                  1. They don’t have ‘individual’ choice. Did you miss the discussion of autonomy? Do you even understand the concept?

                    1. Evidently they don’t want individual choice. More than 50 years of alternating Liberal and Tory governments, and socialized insurance remains the default option. To answer your questions, yes and yes.

                  2. Or they don’t want this system, but don’t have any credible candidates that would be willing to give up the power it gives to the government. Just like in the USA, you can vote for candidates that claim to be for smaller government, but when they’re in Congress they mostly vote for bigger government.

            2. He also ignores the restrictions of choice on the supply side. He would prevent you from opening a business or providing a product if he deemed the market “full” of choice already.

              No entrepreneurship for you. You can go work for a corporation. No need to worry about which one. It will be assigned, based on that aptitude test you took when you were 14.

              Welcome to the machine.

              1. Just keep pumping out those IBM Selectrics!

    2. People treat this stuff like it’s something new. I blame the leftists who eliminated the classics in order to create generations of gullible ignorance (yes, that means you Boehm.)

      In earlier times we better understood all this. That’s why the phrase is “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”

      Nobody else has any business trying to define or provide for your happiness. To even attempt it will inevitably prove counterproductive.

      The only proper response to Krugman is to point and laugh. Instead we get ignorant children treating him like he should be taken seriously.

  3. I was under the impression thoughtful people stopped taking Krugman seriously 20 years ago.

    1. Hence him being relegated to the NYTs. The JV of news organizations.

      1. They couldn’t find an economist to quote, who would say what they wanted, so they bought one of their very own.

      2. Krugman certainly takes himself seriously – and I usually find his rants unworthy of consideration. Krugman did some interesting work on trade economics that won him a Nobel prize. He and the NYT want us to believe that means he is an expert on any other aspect of economics – but he’s not, and has made a fool of himself more than once spouting off economic predictions that never came true. Also, why anyone – including the NYT, thinks that Krugman – the economist, offers up any important insight or opinions on politics is puzzling.

    2. I don’t think he takes himself seriously anymore.

      1. Instead he just poses for photos with his serious face on.

    3. Were you under the impression that thoughtful people were plentiful?

  4. Fuck Tony, whoops I mean Paul Krugman, right in his earholes and his pooper.

    And speaking of freedom and having more choices in life, kudos to Texas governor Greg Abbott who just announced that he’s reopening the entire state 100% and lifting the state mask mandate (which never should have been implemented in the first place, but whatever).

    The Block Yomommatard lefties are predictably going berserk on him, but fuck all of them too. And in the unlikely event you’re still legitimately terrified that he’s putting your life at risk, you’re still perfectly free to stay locked up in your home like a coward.

    1. And Mississippi.

    2. Poop in his earholes and cut out the middle organ.

      1. If you’re trying to reach his brain, I doubt that ears or other orifices in the head are anywhere near the target.

  5. Krugman isn’t focused on anything and doesn’t think anything. Krugman is a troll. Don’t feed the trolls.

    1. Krugman is one of the few people who really need their skull ventilated, for everyone’s good

  6. “People can’t be trusted to choose their electric service, he argues, because some will make ill-informed decisions that come with unexpected costs.”

    Substitute *electric service* with *elected representatives* and you will have a statement which is more factual and accurate than 99% of what Krugman writes these days.

    1. Assuming such a system could even exist, Krugman is really suggesting that a true meritocracy would produce the best outcomes as only the most elite of us are qualified to make such important decisions.

      In other words, he’s a Nazi.

      #punchanazi

      1. Krugman’s definition of “meritocracy” is quite different than that of most of us here. The leftists’ criteria for judging success is based on whether one has checked all the right boxes such as schools attended, degrees conferred, social circles, recreational choices, etc., rather than other objective measures of success such as wealth generated, business acumen, professional acclaim, and the like.

        1. The left is full of self-appointed elites.

  7. Why does anyone need to choose between two political parties? One should be enough.

    1. One could always sell out his morals by attacking the candidate actually working towards liberty and ignore the open authoritarian instead. And do it under the guise of hating both equally despite all evidence available. Much more useful. Mean tweets worse than raised taxes, GND, censorship, gun rights being removed, etc.

      Nobody forgets your actions sweetie.

      1. One of these days you’ll respond to something I actually said.

        1. He doesn’t have much regard for what people actually said. It’s all about winning in front of his fellow right-wingers at any price, including reducing you to a straw man because he is scared to have real conversations where he might be wrong or might learn something.

          1. Ka-ching, fifty-cents.

          2. Strawman means saying things we disagree with, right?

            1. No that’s ad hominem. Strawman means sophistrying.

    2. I’m pretty sure Krugman would agree with you, and no prizes for guessing which party that would be.

  8. Krugman is a partisan idiot and as such you should just do the opposite. The Costanza principle applies. He actually advised that Trump’s election four years ago would result in a plunge in the equities market. If you took that advice you got fucked. He was once on an Enron advisory board and didn’t know what they were doing even though his peers in financial journalism sure did. But he churns out the same Jennifer Rubin style of drivel and nonsense that the left eats up.

  9. “You don’t get a company pension, you have to decide how to invest your 401(k).”

    The employees of Enron did not have to worry. The company happily invested their 401(k) money in Enron stock, relieving them of the agony of having to make investment decisions on their own. See how well that worked out for them. No stress in their lives!

    1. My father had a company pension. It was backed by what was, for the first thirty years he was on the job, the #1 or #2 company on the annual Fortune 500 list.

      You know how that worked out? His division was spun off as its own company, and then went bankrupt. Today, he’s getting seriously reduced checks from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

      What’s worse, he used the original company’s employee stock purchase program, an asset that was wiped out when, four years later, that company went bankrupt.

      1. Yeah, my primary employer has an ESOP. I use it, but only as a piggy bank for the annual family vacation.

      2. You should have something invested in your employer’s success – but not too much.

  10. “This is the real blind spot in Krugman’s argument, and the question he never bothers asking: namely, who should be making these decisions, if not the individuals subject to the risks?”

    Is it though? I’m sure he has folks in his political circle who he feels would be excellent as the Chooser in Chief, personally or as a politbureau.

    1. A number of Thomas Sowell quotes come to mind, both on Krugman and choice…

      “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God.”

      “The fact that the market is not doing what we wish it would do is no reason to automatically assume that the government would do better.”

      “The most basic question is not what is best, but who shall decide what is best.”

      “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.”

  11. Sounds like this Paul Kuckman guy is a disgrace. Never heard of him/her.

    1. A long time ago, he was an economist and received a Nobel Prize. It went to his head, and now he not only propagandizes in many areas unrelated to his knowledge, but also bullshits about basic economics when it conflicts with his politics. We should have _stopped_ hearing about him twenty years ago.

  12. He is advocating more government control over private life. In fact the problem isn’t too many mortgage options, but the fact that the government is blindly insuring all of them regardless of whether the buyer is qualified. The result will of course be disaster. Similarly we pay into social security. However of course, we’re not really paying into anything. The money is immediately spent to fund the federal budget. Whereas if people invested privately, the money would still be there for them to take out. Of course, a few people won’t do well, and we must help them. But that doesn’t require bankrupting the country with $30 trillion debt and counting, and selling your kids into decades of debt slavery.

    Social security and medicare must be abolished. Cue the concern trolling libertarians:

    1. Nun guts and dis-addicted wingers are among my favorite vulture core cavities.

      1. Make up with your kids. Maybe they don’t hate you as much as you fear and won’t leave you to starve alone in the street.

        1. The vulture core cavities are yummier than my kids…

          1. These programs basically pay people like you to sit at home all day railing incoherently. They must be abolished.

      2. “Arguing with anonymous strangers on the Internet is a sucker’s game because they almost always turn out to be—or to be indistinguishable from—self-righteous sixteen-year-olds possessing infinite amounts of free time.”
        ― Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

        Flag, refresh, bye

    2. Problem is you can’t stop SS and Medicare. You can’t pay out the people who have been paying into it for decades because the money isn’t there. It comes from existing workers.

      I figured out that if they paid me back with compounded interest I would be sitting at my beach house sipping rum and watching the pretty scenery walking by now.

  13. Anyone who calls Krugman an economist at this point is a liar. He’s a Marxist through and through.

    1. I refer to him as a court astrologer. He’s the biggest naked emperor in that racket since Keynes itself.

      -jcr

      1. Well said, again, JCR

  14. He was a decent economist in the 90s.

    1. Lol.

      “Krugman predicted in 1998 that the Internet would have little effect on the economy and commerce, with “no greater impact than the fax machine”. ”

      Fucking idiot.

      https://www.bizpacreview.com/2018/01/22/paul-krugman-lord-wrong-predictions-592049/

      He had one paper where he won the nobel based on theory he quickly abandoned once in the media.

    2. “In a series of books and articles beginning in the 1990s, Krugman branded just about everybody who questioned the rapid pace of globalization a fool who didn’t understand economics very well.”

      And your statement here is further proof youre a globalist.

      1. Whatever you do don’t look up CafeHayek. Don’t you ever do that. Please, for the love of God, don’t.

        1. WhAt-a-BouT HayEK

          1. fuck off Tulpa

            1. I dont know how this is scored, but I am pretty sure I won.

        2. Can you imagine if guys like JesseAz actually knew how to have conversations with other people.

          1. Shut the fuck up previously cancelled troll.

          2. Ka-ching, another fifty-cents.
            You may be astonished that a paid troll like me has the guts to pretend that Jesse’s the shit disturber here, but it’s because I have no shame.

    3. No, no….no

  15. You’ll own nothing and be happy. No privacy, since you’ll be renting capsule hotels every night. Eat bugs.

    Meanwhile the ruling class takes jets, owns large houses, and eats beef.

    1. This is all going to go terribly wrong for the Davos crowd; but they’ll never understand why when it happens, because they’re too enamored with their own intellects.

      “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”

  16. The blind, knee-jerk appeal to revealed preferences to insist that everything is just as it should be is one of the more pernicious reactions of our time. The mark of a totally indoctrinated and incurious mind.

  17. Mr. Krugman’s argument is the same argument behind Marxism: experts can make better decisions for any and all individuals better than they can for themselves. The problem is there are no experts in this context: only the individual can determine that which makes them happy.

    1. Exactly. Just think of how hard it would be to throw a birthday party for somebody you don’t know. You have no idea what kind of cake they like, what kind of decorations to get, who to invite, where to host it, etc etc etc.

      Medical insurance is much more complicated than birthday parties.

    2. That same claim goes all the way back to the first thugs who sought power over other people. They used to call it the “divine right of kings”. It was bullshit a thousand years ago, and it’s still bullshit today.

      -jcr

  18. Putting someone else in charge is no way to reduce the stress of making major life decisions, as Krugman seems to believe it would—it just leaves you powerless.

    But if you know that, then you can be resigned to your fate, which can be a very liberating feeling.

    1. What I wrote above is true: that if you’re already in a position such that you have no choice, nothing you can do about what’s going to happen, then understanding that and continuing life accordingly liberates you from worry, from false concerns, from the misimpression of having to do something.

      The fallacy is extrapolating from that fact to the idea that, comparing two situations — one in which you have choice, the other in which you don’t — that you’d be happier in the one without choice.

      1. Yeah. Let’s one get down to gettin’ drunk and watchin’ TeeVee.

    2. Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…

  19. I’m old enough to remember how happy the average Soviet citizen was standing in line for 6 hours in a blizzard to buy one roll of the one type of toilet paper being sold.

    1. “Bread lines are good, because that means people are getting food.”
      Bernie Sanders

      1. I’d happily stand in line to bitch-slap that commie prick.

        -jcr

        1. best go potty and bring a snack…the line will be long

  20. The only choice Krugman should be given is hemp or nylon restraint for his helicopter ride.

  21. Paul Krugman can fuck a goat.

  22. Choosing to read anything Krugman writes is inarguably harmful.

  23. Nobel Prize winning communist.

    1. And Obo, the war-monger, won the Peace Prize!

  24. If there’s one thing the government does well it’s take many options and narrow them down to one or two.

    If there are two things the government does well, it’s the prior and needlessly complicate the choice between those two options.

    If there are three things the government does well, it’s the two prior as well as ensuring that the two options that are excessively complicated to distinguish are both terrible.

  25. There’s at least one area in which he’s absolutely right that people shouldn’t be allowed to make as many choices because they’ll make bad ones. People keep choosing to read his drivel, so the NYT keeps choosing to print it, which means he keeps choosing to write it.

  26. Krugman thinks…

    If only.

    1. Yeah, if that were under oath, it’d be perjury.

  27. Remember when Ron Paul kicked Krugman’s ass in a debate?

  28. The thing with food products is that you almost have an illusion of choice. You might have 19 (probably more) flavors of Pop Tart, but what about other similar ones? There aren’t any. Or Oreos, there’s about as many flavors, but what about Hyrdox?

    Razors is another. You have all types of fancy razors, but it’s almost impossible to find the cheap, effective safety razor or its blades

    Every time there is a different variation of an existing product, it just pushes out other products.

    And it’s not just based on consumer demand. Bigger companies can afford to do more advertising and rely on branding.

    1. Please, there are several alternatives to poptarts (‘toaster streussel’ is the generic term, i believe).

      But this is a poor phrasing of the choice here, because pop tarts or oreos aren’t just competing with other virtually identical things, they’re competing with breakfast sweets and cookies, respectively. There’s a ton of breakfast sweets (donuts, coffee cake, muffins, etc…) and a ton of cookie companies. It’s like saying Fiji bottled water doesn’t have any competitors, because its the only one from Fiji. Nonsense.

    2. There have been many brands of cola around and many have come and gone but two companies by far dominate the market.

      Same with ketchup. Heinz by far dominates the market.

      Sure they are so huge that they can get the product out and market it.

      I would also say that they have pretty much perfected the products. It is hard to improve on them. Same with pop tarts. Only a pop tart is a pop tart. Anything else is something different.

      Interesting that Coca Cola has and still does try to come up with new variations and, with the exception of the diet varieties most of them fail. I tried the new coffee one. I won’t be buying it.

      “Nothing tastes like coke”

      1. If you look through the empties in my house waiting until I can get back the deposits without wearing a mask or standing in line, you’d think those two big cola companies are Walmart and Meijer.

  29. “Every time there is a different variation of an existing product, it just pushes out other products.”
    I’ll bet you have all sorts of cites for that claim, right? Right? Let’s see them.

    “And it’s not just based on consumer demand. Bigger companies can afford to do more advertising and rely on branding.”
    I’ll bet you have all sorts of cites for that claim, right? Right? Let’s see them.

    Shorter response: Bullshit.

    1. Maybe not across the entire depth and breadth of “the market,” but in individual markets (food stores), shelf space is limited and the introduction of a new brand or variety of, say, frozen dinners, might crowd out another brand or variety of frozen dinners.

      And bigger companies can indeed afford to work with food chains to gain “shelf share” by paying to go from the bottom shelf to the arm and eye level shelves, the prime real estate in food stores.

      OTOH, small startups can grow from obscurity to ubiquity. Someone mentioned razor blades above. “Harry’s” was a small company started by a couple of guys, it has grown to the point where its products are in national chains like Target and Walmart. Competition from Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club has been credited with putting price pressure on market leaders such as Gillette.

      The market is a still beautiful thing.

      1. It is why lays potato chips come out with so many varieties and some pretty goofy flavors. It gets them shelf space.

  30. Paul Krugman Thinks You’ll Be Happier With Fewer Choices.

    Now, now, he’s got a point. I really think I’d be much happier if I didn’t have the choice to read the New York Times. Let’s send all its major stockholders, management, editors, and writers to a government-managed camp in Alaska for ten years of fresh air and plenty of exercise, and see if it turns out I’m right.

  31. Exhibit 1074 that Paul Krugman is a Liberal Fascist.

    1. and a dullard

  32. How many choices is “too many”? And who decides? Even if there were only two choices, people might still choose the “wrong” one for them. So Krugman is arguing for no choice at all.

    CB

  33. The elders in ‘The Giver’: “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong, every single time.”

    It’s the reason self-proclaimed elites always give to remove freedom of choice from people.

  34. “…the real blind spot in Krugman’s argument, and the question he never bothers asking: namely, who should be making these decisions, if not the individuals subject to the risks?”

    Well, Krugman.

  35. From the late great Neil Peart.

    There are those who think that life has nothing left to chance
    A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance
    A planet of playthings, we dance on the strings of powers we cannot perceive
    The stars aren’t aligned or the Gods are malign, blame is better to give than receive
    You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
    If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
    You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
    I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose Freewill

  36. Krugman’s dream of a planned economy is simplified if they only have to plan for one type of deodorant, one type of toothpaste, one type of detergent…plus people get assigned to the job that their betters decide they are best suited for…all for the greater good, of course.

    You know, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

    1. And the elites will “need” mansions, vacation homes, and expensive luxury goods (usually imported) to relieve the stress of making all those decisions for people they know nothing about.

  37. “gay Americans were generally happier in the days when the choice to get married was denied to them”

    Well, they were always able to marry *someone*, there was no denial of a choice to get married, just a denial of choice to marry someone they might want to marry. They could always have chosen to marry someone they would not choose to have sex with or even love (a lot of gay men did marry women). I think a lot of hetero women married men they didn’t love or want to have sex with, too, for “reasons”.

  38. Krugman must hate Wendy’s, and love the old Soviet Union: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CaMUfxVJVQ

  39. Krugman needs to get fucked. Only a guy who’s been high and dry for years can be this cranky.

  40. The liberal pitch has always been “let us rule you closely and we’ll take care of you. We’ll be wise and benevolent rulers”. Then they cite a few examples of what choices they’d take upon their shoulders and off ours. Of course, they don’t also mention the whole plethora of choices they really want to take away. For example, they don’t want us living in houses but rather in little apartments. They don’t really want us driving cars, but if we do they want them to be very small and electirc. They don’t want us taking a flight for a foreign vacation and think that a walk in the park should suffice. They don’t want us reading whaever they want but will provide us with an approved list. The list goes on.

    They also have a hard time explaining why so many people move away from the so called blue states under their control where life should be just peachy but ain’t.

  41. I chose no idiots in my life, or in print, or on the planet. Buh bye, PK !!!

  42. Growing up in the 60s in a very small town, we had the obligatory village idiot. We were kind enough not to repeat anything he said. Krugman should be afforded the same courtesy.

  43. will someone PLEASE slap that jackass on the back of the head

  44. krugmans world must be a bleak and unhappy place. his musings are not held in any regard by economists like me. he see’s only want and shortage and grants no agency to the population. truly a sad man who has no real currency in a world that is forgetting him

  45. some people are smart, others not so much.. when dumb people make bad decisions that hurt themselves or end up costing everybody more money, something should be done.. to start with, schools should kids HOW to think, HOW to make rational decisions, instead of just memorizing whatever their teacher presents to them.. as George Carlin said, “think about how stupid the average person is, and then realize, half the people are dumber than that”..

  46. So what you get is almost always a lot of things are happening at once. And assigning causation is always going to be a problem. I mean, one very influential set of economic research

  47. A very good piece, which I may mention on Econlog if I have a chance. However, I would like to know where the author picked up the expression “societal flourishing.” What in heaven does “societal” mean? It’s the scientific-looking way of saying “social”? After quite a lot of readings in welfare economics and social-choice theory, I don’t think I met it once. And how can society (societality?) flourish?

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