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Krugman: Irresponsible money-printing and the meaning of the word "is"

Posted By Larry White On August 10, 2014 @ 2:58 pm In Uncategorized | No Comments

Paul Krugman has noticed the sound money movement. In yesterday's NYT blog post [1] he writes:

In other words, libertarianism is a crusade against problems we don’t have, or at least not to the extent the libertarians want to imagine. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the case of monetary policy, where many libertarians are determined to stop the Fed from irresponsible money-printing — which is not, in fact, something it’s doing.

This is a very artful choice of verb tense. Notice what he doesn't say: that irresponsible money-printing is "not, in fact, something it has done."

I'm reminded of Bill Clinton's famous response when asked whether his lawyer had spoken a falsehood when he said that "there is" no sexual relationship of any kind between the President and Monica Lewinsky: "it depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is." It would be another matter, Clinton allowed, if the lawyer had said "is and never has been." Similarly, the problem of the Fed engaging in irresponsible money-printing has not disappeared even if, by Krugman's (unspecified) criteria, this month's monetary policy is okay. Because irresponsible money-printing is a recurrent problem that we do have, it makes perfect sense to be determined to stop it even if (for the sake of argument) it were the case that it isn't happening this month.

Gandhi is supposed to have said: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you." Krugman seems to be somewhere between the 2nd the 3rd steps.


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[1] NYT blog post: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/09/libertarian-fantasies/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

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