Krugman’s false choice

Posted: 14 October 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Paul Krugman can’t have it both ways.

He can’t, on one hand, post the photo above with some evident satisfaction and then, on the other hand, argue that he can’t be in Liberty Park (to speak with the protestors, teach a class, hold a sign, chant a slogan, or whatever) because it would mean “crossing the line between advocate and activist.”

First, that supposed line never prevented him from participating in the World Economic Forum in Davos, at which capitalist globalization is both celebrated and engineered. (In fact, in early 2011, he explained he wasn’t going to Davos not because it crossed some kind of line but because “there’s not much for me there.”)

Second, there is no line between advocacy and activism. I’ll grant him such a line between journalism and advocacy/activism or between teaching and advocacy/activism (I don’t use the classroom to advocate, because teaching is not a soapbox, but I certainly engage in both advocacy and activism on my blog, and engage in other forms of advocacy and activism in still other spaces beyond the classroom). But I don’t see the line he’s drawn between his ongoing commentary (as a regular columnist in the New York Times and on his blog) and appearing (or being identified) as an “activist” in Liberty Park.

A more honest way of bowing out would be for Krugman simply to argue that he wants to reach some groups of people and he’s afraid that, if he shows up as an activist within the Occupy Wall Street movement, those groups will stop listening to him. That’s a real choice. It’s not one I want to make but it’s a choice all the same.

My only point is, that decision is quite different from hiding behind the false choice between advocacy and activism. And it’s a decision he has to live with (as he tries desperately, with the best of intentions, to get the elite to change their minds and correct their plutocratic ways.)

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Comments
  1. [...] had my disagreements with Paul Krugman over the years (e.g., here, here, and here) but, in comparison to most of what passes for mainstream economics there days, and in the midst of [...]

  2. [...] Krugman is famous for wanting to dissociate himself from the Occupy Wall Street movement. One way of making sense of his decision is that he was (and, it seems, remains) hesitant to throw his full weight in support of ideas and formulations that, from the standpoint of his formal training and the work for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize, are half-baked, confused, and full of contradictions. The economic ideas that have emerged from the Occupy movement do not employ the same rules of knowledge production as Krugman and his mainstream colleagues do regarding what constitutes economic knowledge, and ultimately, who can speak, and maybe more to the point, who will listen. They are outside the realm of acceptable economic knowledges—and therefore don’t deserve a serious engagement. [...]

  3. [...] haven’t exercised much of a voice when it comes to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Paul Krugman refused to be associated with the movement, while Greg Mankiw quickly dismissed the Occupy-related [...]

  4. [...] haven’t exercised much of a voice when it comes to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Paul Krugman refused to be associated with the movement, while Greg Mankiw quickly dismissed the Occupy-related [...]

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