Paul Krugman was once known as an economist of some substance. After bashing Bush’s economic policies with no regard to anything approaching clarity or truthfulness, the economist descended to simple polemicism. After taking on Christian conservatives today, Mr. Krugman shows he isn’t even very good at polemics. We’ll buy him a ticket to the Mencken/Twain school of bashing believers if he needs a second career.
I don’t normally pay much attention to “the Krug,” but my friend and colleague Al Beck sent me an email on the latest column in the NYT and gave me permission to post his thoughts here. Mr. Beck is charitable and holds out the hand of friendship even while he expresses his supreme dissatisfaction with the former economist:
If the intent of this piece ("What's Going On?") was to sharpen the divide between religious conservatives (okay, let's be honest--Christian conservatives) and more moderate secularists, then Mr. Krugman has succeeded. By painting all religious conservatives with a broad brush, lumping Israeli terrorists, Muslim fanatics, praying evangelicals, and rosary-twirling grandmothers into the same camp, Krugman goes so far that he is, it seems, guilty of what he so often condemns. He has effectively objectified "the other," in this case conservative Christians, just as Hitler objectified the Jews as "the other" and thus was able to ignore their plight and seek their destruction. Randall Terry may be a pompous windbag, but Krugman's guilt-by-association turns him into something much more frightening, and, it seems, much less real.
Now, the above comparison may not seem fair--Krugman and Hitler as fellow travelers along the road to some sort of modern holocaust. I'm sure that Krugman would be horrified at such a mischaracterization of his beliefs and attitudes, but that's the point. Terry Schiavo's parents, those Christian believers praying in front of Schiavo's nursing home, and the pharmacist or doctor who really believes that she cannot assist in the taking of a human life have about as much in common with Dutch Muslim fanatics and Israeli assassins as Krugman has with Hitler--i.e., nothing at all except a shared humanity that is often prone to evil (as are we all), yet ever hopeful for better things. But, as the head of the Christian Coalition once declared (and I'm speaking of Jesus and not Pat Robertson, of course)--"You hypocrite, first cast out the beam from your own eye; and then shall you see clearly so as to to cast out the mote out of your brother's eye." Let us not be too quick to do to others what we accuse them of doing to us. In seeking a humane and just society, Krugman would do much better to get to know the conservative believers who walk among us, who live next door to us, and share our fundamental values of peace, justice, and the dignity of human life.