That’s all I can say after reading this dreadful critique of Krugman’s writings on Japan that appeared on Common Dreams, along with almost 100 responses, the vast majority utterly clueless.
The original article said, in a nutshell, that Krugman shows his economist’s blinders by criticizing Japan’s fiscal and monetary policies when they enjoy low unemployment, universal health care and other good things. Japan and Germany show us the way: economic growth is unimportant, what counts is having a healthy society. Growth is a chimera in the age of sustainability, anyway. We should listen to Germany’s criticism of profligate American borrowing, rather than lecturing other countries to become dissolute in our image.
The responses, except for just a few, praised this argument to the skies.
Allow one more indoctrinated economist to make these points:
1. Japanese and German living standards depend on the debt-financed consumption of the US and other net importing countries. That doesn’t mean their social achievements are worthless—far from it—but it indicates that the sustainability problem is not all ours.
2. The Japanese have kept going through the accumulation of a massive public debt. This has been possible only because they are a surplus country, so the debt can be domestically financed without cutting into finance for private investment. In other words, the economic policies Krugman criticized have not led to a Japanese meltdown only because of global imbalances, from which they benefit.
3. Economic growth is essential. If you divide up the world’s output equally among the world’s people, it falls well short of how we want to live. We need redistribution and growth. Greening the economy will also entail tons of investment, which we will have to afford somehow. On top of this, enviro-austerians confuse the growth of value (economic growth) with the growth of stuff (physical throughput). In the economy, better is more, but not necessarily the other way around (if the costs of stuff exceed their benefits).
I hate to say this, but reading the broad swath of opinion on websites like Common Dreams convinces me that the US left is nowhere near ready for prime time. There is a flippancy and anti-intellectualism that is as immature as anything you’ll find among the Tea Partiers. Did I mention that they have a conception of economics (slash the GDP!) that will relegate them to fringe political status in perpetuity?