KNOWLES: Conscience of a coward

As President Obama read from the Book of Psalms to grieving families, friends and neighbors of the 3,000 innocent civilians murdered in the terrorists attack of Sept. 11, 2001, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman ’74 published his own reflection on his blog, “Conscience of a Liberal.” The piece, entitled “The Years of Shame,” mentions neither the victims of the attacks nor the first responders who laid down their lives while saving those still trapped in the smoking towers. It does not discuss the passengers and crew members of United Airlines Flight 93, who reclaimed the cockpit from its terrorist hijackers and prevented the flight from reaching our nation’s capitol by ending their own lives in an empty Pennsylvania field. It does not name Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or any of the 19 hijackers who murdered those 3,000 innocent Americans in cold blood.

Instead, Krugman used his 181-word reflection to call former President Bush, former Mayor Giuliani and former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik “fake heroes” who “raced to cash in on the horror.” Krugman’s reflection, unlike those articulated in his alma mater’s newspaper or during its candlelight vigil Sunday night, does not mention the words we usually associate with that day. World Trade Center, al-Qaeda, Pentagon, terrorism — none of these terms appear. Krugman does indeed once use the term “hijacking,” but even then only to describe those “professional pundits” who turned a “blind eye to the corruption” and lent “support to the hijacking of the atrocity.”

Krugman’s brief but venomous diatribe concludes with a reflection on how we should remember the day that our nation was attacked. He writes, “The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame.” Sunday’s memorial ceremonies, which Krugman reported in his reflection to be “oddly subdued” even before they had begun, have shown us that this conclusion is incorrect. The memory of Sept. 11, 2001, has once again united those defenders of justice in their determination to eradicate the evil that, a decade ago, struck but could not demolish our free society.

The memory of Paul Krugman, however, has been irrevocably poisoned. From his loudspeaker at the New York Times, Krugman traded his opportunity to unite our generation and reflect on its defining moment in order to once again criticize a political party that he doesn’t like. Krugman ends his Sept. 11 piece by noting that he would not “allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons,” and the reason is indeed obvious. He will not acknowledge his readers’ reactions because deep down in the conscience of Krugman, although he would never admit it, he feels a bit of shame himself. Krugman knows that his weakness, his inability to put aside for even one moment his own partisan hatred, has brought shame on himself, on his city, and on the University that he calls alma mater.

Unlike Mr. Krugman, I have encouraged the News to allow comments on this post.

Michael Knowles is a senior in Davenport College.


  • bfa123

    Even as someone who largely shares Krugman’s political views, I think this column is spot on.

  • Super11

    I agree that it’s outrageous that a political commentator would criticize a political party he disagrees with. Glad you’ve never done that, Michael, and that you’ve staked out the 9-11-memorial moral high ground by writing an ad hominem opinion column. I for one am proud that Paul Krugman is a Yale alum

    • River_Tam

      I am proud that George W Bush is a Yale alum.

      • ChrisMiner

        Probably, among the elite echelons of the Third Reich, their was some guy who attended Yale, however briefly, in the 1920’s or ’30’s for some purpose or other. And just as probably, years later, there was some shmuck who was proud that the fellow attended our beloved university. Proud that GHB is a Yale alum? You can’t be serious! Why don’t you check out the history of his genuinely illustrious ancestor, Vanovar Bush, and let us all know how W. stacks up by comparison?

        • River_Tam

          Vannevar Bush and W. are not related. Also, glad to see that civility is still alive and well on the left. Who said Nazi comparisons were dead?

        • Hunch

          Since you’ve already conflated GHB with some shmuck from the Third Reich, I’m guessing the other comparison you suggest would be just as faulty. How can I get into your shop class?

  • justpassingby

    very well said-with exception to the last line about putting shame on the city & the university. I did read the Krugman piece yesterday & thought it was exceptionally poor. However I did not attribute the remarks to either however. It did really make me wonder about Krugman though. It is no secret that he is very partisan and hated Bush and just about everything with to do with his administration. But, besides being incapable of setting the venom aside for one day, what was he actually talking about? Maybe I missed something but was there a Bush-Guiliani-Kerik “thank you hero” parade or something? What was it that he saw that resulted in those divisive words on a day where everyone else is focused on paying tribute and unity?

  • deld

    I didn’t understand Krugman’s reasoning. He criticizes politicians for rushing to cash in on the horror of 9/11, a criticism he could write any time. But he chose to write it on the tenth anniversary to maximize the publicity his article will receive. So is the difference between him and politicians is he waited for the tenth anniversary to cash in? Does he think this makes him a better person somehow?

  • RichardHed

    Perhaps when you’re done “quoting” selections for people who can read and draping your moral outrage with the flag, you can offer your reflections on why no one thought on that anniversary, to mention that we may have just past the 1,000,000 dead mark in Iraq and Afghanistan – the bulk “innocent civilians.” Hysteria is not a substitute for open debate. What Krugman is guilty of doing is farting in church; you might consider his arguments. Could do you some good. We are way less well than we were a decade ago from an economic and a social perspective. Read Lincoln’s Gettysburg address for a lesson in healing. All we got from our leaders was testosterone and ten years after more BS for the masses.

    Do you know how we recognized the 10 year anniversary of Pearl Harbor? You remember that one – a day that will live in infamy….

    • River_Tam

      > 1,000,000 dead mark in Iraq and Afghanistan – the bulk “innocent civilians.

      [citation needed]

      • RichardHed

        And thank you for your support. I had seen it referenced in my local rag – on 9/11 actually in the form of a political cartoon. The following URL should get you a start on tracking down data, though these days you can Google it as well as I. . The URL goes to Huff Post, the reference tracks back through some liberal stuff which may offend you, but gets to Lancet (Brit Medical Journal, but you know how those guys go on…). It appears on cursory examination they are only tracking Iraq. If I give you they are doubling the count, will you give me adding in Afghanistan comes to a number big enough not to quibble over?

        • River_Tam

          So… you’re saying you don’t have a citation?

          The Lancet study was very obviously flawed:

          The Iraq Body Count project puts the death count in Iraq in the 100,000 range, which is an order of magnitude less than what you’re claiming.

  • terryhughes

    And now Krugman doubles down, while descending further into incoherent gibberish posing as “explanation:”

    I especially like his “memory” of the immediate post 9/11 period as a time in which “any criticism was denounced as treason… and much more tolerance than one might have feared.”

    Ah, yes, Mr. Krugman. Anything you say, Mr. Krugman. Look around you, all you see is sympathetic eyes.

  • Super11

    I think it’s worthwhile to read [this response][1] in the Washington post as well as [Krugman’s own follow-up post][2] on his blog.


  • The Anti-Yale

    If Krugman is going to speak the truth as he sees it without hiding behind a flag, then he needs to allow others —no matter how hateful — to do so. The cowardice is the refusal to use real names when speaking ugly opinions, a cowardice often found in these very *YDN* posts.
    Paul D. Keane

    • River_Tam

      Anonymous speech is the freest speech.

      • The Anti-Yale

        A coward hides.

        • River_Tam

          Whereas name-calling sorts you into Gryffindor.

  • joannekb

    Does Krugman suffer from a mental illness?

    • ChrisMiner

      No, the odds are small. The fellow is lucid and prescient as few are in our society.

      However, if I were you, I’d pay a quick visit to the University counseling service or the YHP emergency room to have yourself thoroughly checked out. I’d bet a lot that a comprehensive eval would turn up something worth treating.

    • Hunch

      He doesn’t “suffer from it” , joanne, he glories in it, and in academia he financially thrives on it. Too much wine and cheese are the causal elements, and being “right” by authority is the chief symptom. Of course, as another poster has observed, farting in church is also a passing indication, or for some, passing a church is a farting opportunity.
      Say, does anybody here even really attend Yale? Or I have linked to some lampoon site, or possibly the Onion?

  • terryhughes

    Another Yalie, Glenn Reynolds, offers some wise advice about Krugman’s ravings: “Don’t be angry. Understand it for what it is, an admission of impotence from a sad and irrelevant little man.” James Taranto adds with equal wisdom: “Indeed. That post was monstrous, but it was trivial in equal measure. Paul Krugman is history’s smallest monster.”

    “History’s smallest monster.” Just so.

    • River_Tam

      Seconding Prof. Reynolds’ comments.

  • Hunch

    Strongly disagreeing with Krugman, I would still defend his right to voice his opinions.
    Unfortunately, he has ceased to afford his readers the same right.
    He has recently shut off remarks from his “trolls” and now shuts his comments down completely over political commentary such as this.
    I can understand, but do not accept, his limiting what he deems propaganda and untruths in his field of expertise. When he strays from that area one does wonder what his motivation could possibly be.
    He has become a rock-star at the NYT and is indeed one of the few capable opinion writers on their staff.
    His opinions serve as a challenge to mine and I have thus always sought him out.
    His error here is not based on his opinion, but on his cruel indifference to alternative thought.
    Is this what academia is about?

    • ChrisMiner

      Don’t be ridiculous. The guy refused comments only because he knew in advance that the torrent of responses would be unwieldy. Check out the 7,000+ comments on the Huffington Post, for example. How many on Faux News?

      • Hunch

        Deleting the comments which referred to him as “your eminence” or “atta boy” would have pared his torrent considerably.

      • Erasure

        I’m calling troll here. The guy refused comments because he didn’t care to hear any dissenting opinion. As a liberal, I’m frankly disgusted by Paul Krugman. Feel free to take shots at Bill Buckley, but at least the man was brave enough to engage in open debate. Krugman writes divisive, incendiary op-ed posts, and cannot stand the idea that anyone else could fail to see his drivel for perfect truth. He occasionally makes salient points, but he drowns out his own good by wrapping it in aggressive partisan nonsense, or in his inability to understand tact.

        Regardless of what side of the isle you are on, you do not engage in the erasure of dissenting opinions. It’s not at all difficult to assume the moral highground when discussing the post 9/11 makeup where dissenters were labeled unpatriotic or treasonous. How sad it is then, that in the selfsame article you execute an even more strict erasure of dissenting opinion. More than hypocritical, that is truly shameful.

        Furthermore, if you are a professor, I truly worry for the well-being of your students. The peremptory fashion in which you assign grades, your own inability to think critically, and your intolerance for an opposing viewpoint cannot mesh with academia.

        Since at no point have you come anywhere near a reasonably constructed or coherent response, I’m going to have to reiterate that you’re just trolling. I’d love it if you were able to prove me wrong.

        • RexMottram08

          Bill Buckley was a great man. Too bad the YDN hasn’t produced anyone like that since…

  • politipond

    Krugman’s blog is spot on and does not disrespect 9/11 by any means. He looks beyond 9/11. Here is a good analysis:

  • The Anti-Yale

    “Understand it for what it is, an admission of impotence from a sad and irrelevant little man.”

    When all else fails, ridicule someone’s physical appearance. It takes guts to go against the grain —especially on the matter of a sacrocanct, patriotic symbol — if you believe what you are saying and are not simply engaging in an iconoclastic dance.
    I admire Krugman for being having the courage to stand alone, regardless of the validity of his opinion.
    Besides, if we had followed his advice at the beginning of Obama’s administration to lobby for a much much larger stimulus package, we might be out of the recession now.
    You don’t get a Nobel Prize because you are a “sad, irrelvant , litle man.”

    • River_Tam

      Little in the metaphorical sense, not the literal one, Mr. Keane.

      Winning a Nobel Prize for an economic theory he developed thirty years ago does not make him either relevant or not morally tiny.

    • terryhughes

      I, personally, have no idea of Krugman’s physical size at all, and I had assumed Reynolds was refering to Krugman’s moral stature. Krugman is a moral runt. Of course, all suggestions that anyone here is attempting to silence Krugman or that Krugman deserves special credit for speaking truth as he sees it (a dubious proposition) are utterly beside all significant points.

      I don’t have the slightest idea how much Glenn Reynolds knows about Paul Krugman’s physical stature, but from what I do know about Reynolds I would be amazed if he is referring to any such thing. It is possibly worth noting that Krugman’s interviewers have sometimes made intense reference to his physical characteristics (other than his size, to my limited knowledge), most famously the description of him as the “frenetic, gnomishly handsome Krugman, his brown eyes darting to and fro,” which does at least suggest someone with a possibly serious mental illness. I can’t personally ratify whether Krugman is frenetic and gnomishly handsome with brown eyes darting to and fro, because I’ve never met him. And I think I want to keep my record clean.

      “You don’t get a Nobel Prize BECAUSE you are a “sad, irrelvant , litle man?” I think you mean, IF you are a “sad, irrelvant , litle man.” If so, you seriously misunderstand what the Nobel Prize is, what it supposed to be, and what the Nobel Committees sometimes make it into. For example, John Nash is another Nobel Laureate in Economics who at the time he was awarded the Prize was deeply afflicted with paranoid schizophrenia and constantly enduring delusional episodes after years of painfully watching the loss and burden his condition brought on his ex-wife and friends. The term “sad, irrelvant , litle man” fits exactly both the CURRENT Nash and the CURRENT Krugman, and did so when each won the Prize. (Of course the book and movie “A Beautiful Mind” are based on Nash’s story – sometimes loosely. One hopes we are spared a book about Krugman’s descent.)

      Of course, some of Nash’s IDEAS that he came up with before he became a “sad, irrelvant , litle man” remain of high significance and anything but “irrelevant.” That is much less true of Krugman, whose basic academic work is deeply flawed and who was probably awarded the Nobel Prize largely to suit the larger political agenda of a Nobel Prize Committee. Another such Committee, of course, awarded a Nobel Peace Prize to another “sad, irrelvant , litle man” named Al Gore. It’s not an unusual occurrence at all. Never has been.

      • The Anti-Yale

        “Deeply flawed”?

        • terryhughes

          Krugman first came on the scene in connection with the “new trade theory.” The Introduction to Krugman’s (1990, p. 5) selected papers says: “The main additional insight from [my article “Scale Economies, Product Differentiation, and the Pattern of Trade,” American Economic Review, 70, 950-959] is the ‘home market effect,’ the tendency of countries to export goods for which they have a relatively large domestic market.” But a Federal Reserve Bank article points out that Krugman made major errors (from the Fed article):

          Harvard economist Donald Davis dealt this flourishing movement what seemed a damaging blow. Krugman had developed his increasing-returns trade theory by looking at a model with two sectors, one, alpha, with increasing returns to scale and the other, beta, with constant returns. Krugman adopted what he represented to be a harmless assumption. “For simplicity,” Krugman wrote in his seminal 1980 paper, “also assume that beta goods can be transported costlessly.”

          On the surface it was the kind of simplifying assumption that theorists make all the time, abstracting somewhat from the real world in order to increase explanatory power—“sacrificing some realism to gain tractability,” Krugman wrote. Krugman said nothing vital seemed to hinge on it. Davis, who has served as chair of Columbia University’s economics department, examined the assumption more carefully: “There is little suggestion that total trade costs are higher” for increasing-returns goods, he wrote. If anything, the cost of trading constant-returns goods is likely to be higher than that for increasing-returns goods. Davis also found that the simplification was far from innocuous. If Krugman’s model is duplicated with just one small change in that assumption then Krugman’s most striking findings entirely evaporate.

          Krugman has been forced to “admit” that his theories add little to understanding global trade, but has now claims the main effect of his work is in the understanding of regional trade. But his work is almost never mentioned in connection with European integration or intra-EU competition, for example.

          Similarly, Krugman’s attempt to explain urbanization is entirely at variance with observations. One can go on and on. Krugman has admitted that he is no good at predictions and that essentially all of his significant economic predictions have been wrong.

          One can forgive the Clark medal, which was awarded before the main errors in his work were disclosed. The same cannot be said of the Nobel. The Nobel Committee just ignored the problems with his theories in an apparent rush to satisfy a political agenda. Krugman may be the first person awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics mostly for scribing a hate-filled column in the New York Times that appealed to the political biases of a left-wing Nobel Committee. Of course, one can see more of this Nobel propensity in the award of the Peace Prize to Al Gore by another such Committee.

  • The Anti-Yale

    You’re being generous River Tam. I think “little” was meant as a double edged sword.

    I didn’t know Nobel Prizes were subject to the fashions of the times. Hemingway, Faulkner, Mandela, Mother Teresa?

    • River_Tam

      Yasser Arafat, Al Gore, Barack Obama. Of course Nobel Prizes are subject to the fashions of the times. The great Jorge Luis Borges never won one for his political positions.

      But that’s not to say that Krugman didn’t deserve his Nobel Prize – he did. But it was a Nobel Prize for an economic theory that he developed thirty years ago, something that hardly makes his opinions on non-economic matters relevant, or gives him any moral authority.

      • ChrisMiner

        What ought to make Krugman’s economic opinions, um, er… relevant… is that he has correctly called every development in our economy over the past 2-3 years. In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, you could look it up!

        • Hunch

          Conceding the stipulation that Krugman’s economic opinions are, um…relevant, that neither carries weight into this political statement of his, nor does it preclude such weight, er.. does it?
          And I love Yogi Berra, still remember him jumping into Don Larsen’s arms. (extra credit?)

        • River_Tam

          Really? Did he?

          I seem to recall Professor Mankiw at Harvard calling the subprime mortgage market bubble bursting back in the early 2000s. I seem to recall Professor Schiller relentlessly predicting it for many years. I seem to recall Nassim Taleb sounding the alarm.

          I don’t remember Paul Krugman saying anything.

  • The Anti-Yale

    Yassir Arafat’s prize was meant as encouragement, as was Gore’s and Obama’s. Thiis quiet-cheerleader role has been a recent trend of the Nobel Committee, including the prize to a Chinese dissident.

  • ChrisMiner

    Mr. Knowles: You receive an “F” in basic reading comprehension. How in the world did you get to Yale? Krugman had nothing at all to say about victims or first responders, nothing whatever about passengers and crew of hijacked flights and nothing whatever to say about Al Qaida and their various operatives. These are all important topics, but that’s not what Krugman wrote about. And not what you should be writing about in your review. I thought somebody pounded a stake through the heart of Bill Buckley a long time ago. but apparently not. Shame on you for your bias and sophistry. You would fail my courses for sure. Perhaps a career in advertising?

    Krugman’s sense of shame, rather, has to do with our nation’s hapless response to the 9/11 atrocities. He is ashamed, as am I, and as you should be had you a sentient bone in your body, about what has become of the United States of America over the past 10 years. Krugman is ashamed, as should be every loyal American, of how the Bush administration bamboozled the nation into invading Iraq, wasting jillions of dollars, several thousand brave soldiers’ lives and very nearly all of our national prestige. He is ashamed, as am I, of the utterly wasted opportunity to maintain the world’s antipathy to radical Islam and to constructively deal with our enemies.

    Somebody, hand me another stake!

    • LtwLimulus90

      Actually, I think Mr. Knowles is criticizing the fact that Mr. Krugman had nothing to say about the victims, first responders, etc. He is talking about Mr. Krugman’s hypocrisy in lambasting politicians for dividing the country and tarnishing 9/11’s memory while Mr. Krugman is, in fact, guilty of the very same thing: taking the opportunity that 9/11 (or it’s anniversary) presents and using it for political advantage and partisanship. Instead, he says, Mr. Krugman should have heeded his own advice and used the opportunity as an occasion for attempts at healing and unity.

      Maybe it’s you who should take the course in reading comprehension, Professor…Gosh, how did Yale ever hire you?

    • Hunch

      Strange isn’t it that you attack Mr. Knowles for his bias and sophistry when you propose to speak for “every loyal American”, when you refer to Fox as faux news, and when you accuse the Bush administration of “bamboozlement”.
      Strange also that you employ the violent metaphor of driving a stake through a heart.
      Strangest of all, is that you use you position as an instructor to deal out “F’s” in this venue, much like Caligula in the Colosseum, as if your credentials alone made your opinions worthy of respect.
      I can see Harvard Yard from here.

    • River_Tam

      > . Krugman is ashamed, as should be every loyal American, of how the Bush administration bamboozled the nation into invading Iraq

      And they say conservatives are the ones accusing their opponents of being un-American.

  • ChrisMiner

    Another failing grade, sigh. Krugman is marking the anniversary of an important national catastrophe to lament our collective lack of an effective response ever since. The victims, the responders, our OEF/OIF troops, their families… all of these are in our thoughts and prayers every day. Every day. No need for televised concerts and memorial souvenirs for sale.

    • Hunch

      Fail me too, teach. I don’t understand what you mean by “an effective response” or the lack of same. You talk, I’ll listen.

    • River_Tam

      Krugman is using the anniversary of an important national moment to viciously attack his political opponents for politicizing a national moment. Get your head checked, doc.

      • Super11

        Krugman is not a politician. He is not a commander-in-chief who sent troops to die in the middle east based on flawed information.
        Big difference.

  • The Anti-Yale

    An inconvenient truth is both what Krugman and Gore preach, on different topics. Neither is a “sad, irrelevant, little man.”

  • gzuckier

    Yes; let us remember 9/11 as President Bush suggested, and go shopping. “Get down to Disney World in Florida.” Otherwise, the terrorists win. Who’s going to be the first to feature a 9/11 Sale, to bracket summer with the Memorial Day Sale?

  • The Anti-Yale

    This is one Bush-ism I agree with.

    Imagine if in addition to the tremendous grief and shock we felt after 9/11 we had withdrawn into our pocketbooks and created a recession similar to the one we are in now. The nation would have been totally DEMORALIZED.

    As much as I ridicule the soulless-ness of Mercantilia, I realize that it has produced the greatest economic engine in history which concomitantly permits the greatest philanthropy in human history. As crass as it seems, after the terrorist attack, I double-mortgaged my house to build a garage I had no intention of building, specifically to defy the terrorists’ attempts to bring down our economy. It took 7 years to pay that off.

  • godard

    paul krugman also forgot to mention weapons of mass destruction, the “convenient” truth used by the bush administration to invade a sovereign country that had absolutely nothing to do with the world trade center action. furthermore, i agree with prof. miner: michael knowles does not possess the critical thinking qualities that define the best yale has to offer. i too recommend switching to advertising — or PR.

    • Erasure

      Perhaps you could define critical thinking or reading comprehension for us? Knowles was able to tell you exactly what was not in the article. Given that the article is a reflection of 9/11, I believe it’s fair to assume a certain baseline of content would be present. It is therefore worth noting its absence.

      Furthermore, Knowles’ coverage goes on to address exactly what WAS indeed in the article. His coverage seems rather adroit and fair given what Krugman actually said. To Knowles’ credit, he quoted the man directly many times in his own piece.

      So I suppose your argument is that Knowles’ belief that the Krugman opinion was shameful illustrates his inability to think critically?

      Well, let’s examine. Has Krugman long been a divisive, partisan force? Yes. (And I believe he would agree himself, proudly). Did he depart from his divisive, partisan politics in this 9/11 blog post? No. (And a rather resounding No at that). Was the cursory acknowledgment of the victims and real heroes of 9/11 in his followup perhaps even more offensive than his neglect to mention them even the firstplace? I would say so.

      So whether you agree with Krugman’s arguments or not, I fail to see where Knowles’ interpretation is wrong.

      And as for the politicization of 9/11, I’ll just say this. Providing for the nation’s security is a chief responsibility of the President. Most of the time, the “better” defense candidate is based merely on conjecture. In the event of a war or attack on our own soil, there is suddenly a real opportunity to establish strength or weakness in the ability to provide defense. Why then would we expect ANY political party to not point directly to that event to gain support for their actions or to levy critiques against the failures of their opposition. We’ve all seen Giuliani lampooned for being unable to go four seconds without mentioning 9/11. However, if he did in fact do a good job, why not acknowledge that a potential repeat performance is a good reason for him to get elected. Obviously there are shades of gray when it comes to profiteering, but using this as a political issue isn’t quite the damning action Krugman would make it out to be. He would be much better off sticking to the War launched with spurious evidence. I’d say also the erasure of dissenting opinion, but apparently Krugman has no real respect for freedom of speech, rather just the protection of his own voice. How shameful.