Paul Krugman, America’s leading champion for the idea that the only way to deal with the problems of spending is to spend more, is at it again. Castigating concern with debt as “moralizing” and implying that people who are so concerned are “the worst” sorts, Krugman argues that the world’s economy needs spending, and if private individuals and firms aren’t doing it, then government must:

“The key thing to bear in mind is that for the world as a whole, spending equals income. If one group of people — those with excessive debts — is forced to cut spending to pay down its debts, one of two things must happen: either someone else must spend more, or world income will fall.”

Clearly one of the problems of modern economics is to think constantly in abstracts (such as world income) rather than in particulars (which, of course, are not as measurable and susceptible to control). The result is to advocate for policies that are counter-intuitive (“Have too much debt? Spend more!”), or completely indifferent to moral concerns by dismissing such as “moralizing.” Are frugality, risk-aversion, modesty, and a sense of scale virtues, or are they not? Is it any wonder that NYTimes essayists can’t understand why what is going to happen tomorrow is going to happen, but have to demonize voters and treat them as if they’re irrational?

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Jeffrey Polet
Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.


  1. I also noticed some wonderful comments in retaliation to Krugman’s essay. It’s worth reading some of the dissent…

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