Friday, August 22, 2003

Krugman: Intellectual slob

Paul Krugman is the Oscar Madison of exposition. As the bloggers circle to attack, you’d think he’d tighten up his arguments and back them up with hard statistics. Last week, I characterized his Friday column as “slovenly prose” – this week doesn’t show much improvement. Take this paragraph from today’s column, with emphasis added:

One look at the numbers tells you that his story is fiction. Since the mid-1990's California has added jobs considerably faster than the nation as a whole. And while the state has been hit hard by the technology slump, it has done no worse than other parts of the country. A recent study found that California's tech sector had actually weathered the slump better than its counterpart in Texas. Meanwhile, California isn't a high-tax state: through the 1990's, state and local taxes as a share of personal income more or less matched the national average, and with the recent plunge in revenue they're now probably below average. What is true is that California's taxes are highly inequitable: thanks to Proposition 13, some people pay ridiculously low property taxes.

There you go: a “recent study,” a specious comparison to another state, an indefinite qualifier, and “probably” – who knows? Not me! says the Professor. It looks like Robert Musil is first today, debunking Krugman without mercy. For extra credit, read this great review of California’s economic problems by Alan Reynolds: the California state income tax is 9.3%, the sales tax is around 8% and the corporate tax is 8.8%. Ouch.

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