David Frum

11.21.12

Popping the Epistemic Bubble

Mark Adomanis chronicles an all too frequent issue for movement conservatives: that nasty failure to fully understand arguments before writing nasty screeds* in response:

[B]efore Hanson wrote anything, Krugman made three different points about the American economy in the postwar period:

1) the American economy continued to boom well after the 1950′s, a time when Europe was fully rebuilt

2) America actually engaged in very little foreign trade of any kind in the 1950′s and 60′s even as it boomed

3) Basic precepts of market economics suggest that post-war European economic growth actually helped the United States

Just to drive the point home, all of the above was written more than a full day before Hanson’s response, and Hanson has addressed precisely zero of Krugman’s arguments. Indeed it seems pretty clear that Hanson didn’t even bother to read Krugman’s post, so complete and total is the disconnect between his attempted rebuttal and the content of what Krugman wrote. Hanson argues that American growth was driven by an export boom, but no such boom occurred. Hanson argues that as soon as Europe was rebuilt America suffered, but this is demonstrably inaccurate. And Hanson doesn’t address at all the (traditionally conservative) argument that mutually beneficial economic exchange makes everyone better off and that European economic growth should not have harmed the United States.

I don't have much to dispute with this. Krugman is a favorite straw-man for movement conservatives (not the least of which stems from his intentional bombast and thinly veiled scorn for his interlocutors).

All I would suggest is that movement conservatism is only a part of the tribe (and one we're working hard to shrink). For more, read David Brooks' recent column where he decided to publish the conservatives in his RSS feed. (Only sort of kidding).

And yes, the right deserves better. The stunned silence on the first Wednesday of this month is the perfect explanation of why.

*In a feat of high irony, I succumbed to exactly this syndrom, tweeting at Mr. Adomanis about an issue with his article prior to reading down to discover that it was answered later in the piece. So meta!