As I’ve been accused (wrongly) of stoking inflation fears, there is such a thing as inflation in intellectual life. This occurs when the supply of words exceeds the demand for them, causing the value of the individual word to collapse. For an example of superfluous verbiage, see Matt O’Brien’s desperate attempt to succeed where Brad DeLong so abjectly failed, i.e. to persuade us that the latest CBO report is great news. Guys, you’re Keynesians. You were against fiscal tightening last year. But it happened: new revenue from the fiscal cliff deal, plus spending cuts from the sequester. Now, bizarrely, you want to claim those changes as a victory. And yet even with tax hikes and spending cuts the debt is still set to increase – in the alternative fiscal scenario you favor – to 190% of GDP by 2038. Even more otiose is Noah Smith’s defense of Krugman, or rather of himself, which continues the following devastating bit of fact-checking:
“The Egyptian plover does not, in fact, eat meat out of the mouths of Nile crocodiles.”
The inflationary crisis currently being experienced by the likes of Smith is not difficult to quantify in the age of Twitter: just divide the number of followers by the number of tweets. The resulting index of influence is revealing. It shows that the majority of my most vehement online critics are in fact writing more than they are being read, as the number of their tweets substantially exceeds the number of their followers.
Part of what is wrong with the blogosphere is that most bloggers are just too trigger-happy – or rather keyboard-happy. As I said last week, I suspect that the amount they write also exceeds the amount the read. A possible exception is Matt Yglesias, who at least seems to understand that books matter and that those who want to attack me would be well advised to read at least some of them before opening fire. Yglesias remains – to my knowledge – the only Krugmanite who has actually read my books.
It’s striking that not one of these guys apparently bothered to read my most recent book, The Great Degeneration, which addresses the issues they claim to care about – low growth, public debt and financial regulation – far more thoroughly than I ever could in an op-ed. There was plenty in there for them to disagree with. It wasn’t even very long (174 pages, including endnotes). But no: so much easier just to nitpick the op-eds and interviews.
Memo to the Krugmanites: Read more. Write less.