Now Krugman has come out and admitted, offhandedly, that his own understanding of economics has been seriously deficient as well. In a recent essay titled “What Economists (Including Me) Got Wrong About Globalization,” adapted from a forthcoming book on inequality, Krugman writes that he and other mainstream economists “missed a crucial part of the story” in failing to realize that globalization would lead to “hyperglobalization” and huge economic and social upheaval, particularly of the industrial middle class in America. And many of these working-class communities have been hit hard by Chinese competition, which economists made a “major mistake” in underestimating, Krugman says.
There were dissenting voices in the 1990’s on this subject, but they were marginalised in the debate. The problem, however, is more fundamental than that, and I’ll use China to make the point.
My family business’ experience in China, coupled with a lifelong study of the culture, informed us that we were dealing with a civilisation and politico-economic system that is in many ways different from ours. And I think that most of those who we worked with there likewise understood that. The problem is that Americans, no matter how much education they have or how high they rise in their own system, tend to assume that everyone else in the world is “just like us,” and Americans who have figured out otherwise don’t rise in the system. It’s a form of cultural imperialism that blinds people to the reality around them. In the 1990’s the fashionable assumption was that China would be come a “liberal democracy” like us, but again those of us who knew the truth knew better. (In reality we are a pseudodemocracy run by pseudosophisticates, but that’s another post…)
The other problem, of course, is that, under all the gaudy rhetoric about retraining, our elites basically don’t care about anyone else in this country except people like themselves.
Which leads us to the next hot topic:
Asked whether the mistakes made by him and other economists helped lead to the rise of Trump, Krugman responded: “We’re still debating this, but as far as I can tell Trump’s trade policy isn’t resonating with many people, even his blue-collar base. So it’s kind of hard to blame trade analysts for the phenomenon.”
It’s impossible to get people who hate Trump to admit that they helped to facilitate his rise, but it’s true. My Anglican/Episcopal readers will understand the analogy of Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori. Not even the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003 was enough to inspire a meaningful search for an alternative. But her “scorched earth” policy regarding the property and dissenting bishops and clergy was a major factor in the formation of the ACNA.
No one likes to admit that they overplayed their hand but, as was the case with the Spanish Civil War, it happens and has consequences.