You never want to be on the other end of a Dean Baker takedown post.
The latest example is from a blog post this week penned by Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research:
You have to admire Niall Ferguson. There aren’t many people who are willing to write lengthy diatribes on topics on which they seem to know next to nothing, but some would say that is the definition of a Harvard professor.
The Niall Ferguson post that Baker addresses is itself a takedown of Paul Krugman’s analysis of the UK economic situation leading up to the election.
Ferguson writes in The Financial Times that, “like his journalism on the United States, Krugman’s writings about Britain are characterised by extreme partisanship, complemented by a touristic level of knowledge.”
Ferguson’s argument is basically that Krugman is wrong to criticise the UK’s austerity policies, since the economy is doing just fine after several years of austerity:
Let us just be clear. Paul Krugman predicted that George Osborne’s policies would devastate the UK economy, producing results worse than those of the 1930s. The outcome? More than 1.9 million jobs have been created since May 2010.
Baker says this is wrong:
Anyhow, [Ferguson] apparently believes that the victory of the Conservative Party in the U.K. election last week showed that he was correct to endorse their austerity policy and that Paul Krugman was wrong to criticise it. If he was familiar at all with the
literature on the impact of the economy on elections he would know that elections are largely determined by the economy’s performance in the last year before an election, not an administration’s entire term.
But the real story is the overall performance of the U.K. economy, which Ferguson somehow thinks was extraordinary. The data beg to differ, even if the U.K. has done better in the last couple of years as the government relaxed its austerity. Here is the per capita GDP record of the G-7 economies since the crisis … the U.K. ties France for fifth place, only beating out Italy for last place. If we treat 2010 as the start point, it managed to close the gap with France in the next four years (which also was forced to pursue austerity since it was in the euro zone), but fell further behind Germany, Japan, Canada, and the U.S.
The lesson here, of course, is that economists are vicious to each other in print when they disagree.
The vessel for it, in this case, is the economic arguments surrounding the recent British election.
And if you are wondering how these men get away with being so nasty to each other in print? The answer is tenure.