When he does stuff like this, he makes us all look bad:
What I found myself thinking about, however, is the way the inequality debate illustrates some typical features of many debates these days: the way the right has a sort of multi-layer defense in depth, which involves not only denying facts but then, in a pinch, denying the fact that you denied those facts.
Think about climate change. You have various right-wingers simultaneously (a) denying that global warming is happening (b) denying that anyone denies that global warming is happening, but denying that humans are responsible (c) denying that anyone denies that humans are causing global warming, insisting that the real argument is about the appropriate response.
I’m not sure there are three levels (yet) on inequality, but we definitely have (a) right-wingers denying that inequality is rising and (b) denying that anyone is denying the rise in inequality, but attacking any proposal to limit that rise.
You might ask, how is it possible to take such mutually contradictory positions? And the answer is, it’s very easy if confusing the debate is your job.
Ignore the ad hominem attack but imagine if I put out an argument that says:
Think about abortion. You have various feminists simultaneously (a) denying that a fetus is human (b) denies that anyone denies that a fetus is human but denies that society has a right to intervene and stop a woman from exercising her choice.
The proper response to this is: eh? what feminists are you talking about? Those are two different arguments, maybe true maybe false, used perhaps by three different groups of feminists whose focus is different (one group focusing on deflating the abortion-is-murder argument and another on the abortion-is-a-choice argument). Plus, no one is denying that another sub-group might have different reasons for believing the same thing.
Similarly, some people believe that global warming isn’t happening, others that it is happening but that there is no data to show that it is caused by humans and a third group could believe that it is caused by humans but that adaptation is better that prevention or that a carbon tax is superior to regulation. (Disclosure: I’m no. 3, but favour a carbon tax, offset by VAT or Income Tax cuts) All this means is that the “right-wing” is not some homogeneous blob of narrow minded people but as varied as left-wing of which Krugman is a part. After all, surely he (a pro-free trade international economist) doesn’t agree with, oh say, Joesph Stiglitz (who wrote Globalization and it’s Discontents) about everything, even though they are both liberals, does he?
This may be a good time, gentle reader, to familiarize yourself with out-group homogeneity bias.