Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Arnold Kling Lectures Krugman

Via Instapundit, I discovered this gem of an article. Kling makes exactly the same critique of Krugman that I've been making for quite some time now: that Krugman prefers to insult his political opponents and impugn their motives, rather than going to the effort of evaluating their claims on the merits. This incessant resort to ad hominem argumentation renders Krugman unreadable, and it is unseemly to see such nonsensical argumentation issuing from the pen of a man who once was considered a serious thinker.

Dear Paul,

You might remember me from graduate school at MIT. I would like to ask you a question about what constitutes a reasonable argument.

For example, suppose I were to say, "We should abolish the minimum wage. That would increase employment and enable more people to climb out of poverty."

There are two types of arguments you might make in response. I call these Type C and Type M.

A hypothetical example of a Type C argument would be, "Well, Arnold, studies actually show that the minimum wage does not cost jobs. If you read the work of Krueger and Card, you would see that the minimum wage probably reduces poverty."

A hypothetical example of a Type M argument would be, "People who want to get rid of the minimum wage are just trying to help the corporate plutocrats."

Paul, my question for you is this:

Do you see any differences between those two types of arguments?

I see differences, and to me they are important. Type C arguments are about the consequences of policies. Type M arguments are about the alleged motives of individuals who advocate policies.

In this example, the type C argument says that the consequences of eliminating the minimum wage would not be those that I expect and desire. We can have a constructive discussion of the Type C argument -- I can cite theory and evidence that contradicts Krueger and Card -- and eventually one of us could change his mind, based on the facts.

Type M arguments deny the legitimacy of one's opponents to even state their case. Type M arguments do not give rise to constructive discussion. They are almost impossible to test empirically.

There's a whole lot more to this article than the snippet that I've included here, and I heartily encourage you to read it in its' entirety. If some people still wonder why Krugman is so often denounced these days as "shrill", Kling's letter ought to give them a better understanding of why this is so.