OK, it’s true, our “dear” Prof. Krugman is a bit like a tragic car crash for me. I don’t want to see it, but when unavoidably confronted, I can’t take my eyes away from the carnage. Hence, it was only today that I came across this somewhat dated June missive to his “colleage” David Brooks, also of the NY Times and, now, can’t help myself.
As it’s relatively short, I’ll include a full excerpt of his post below, but will now, and again, clearly assert just how astoundingly disingenuous (or patently stupid) I believe Krugman continues to be. His basic point, by way of the data he presents, is that social program spending by various European governments isn’t all that high. So, let me add this (equally off-the-cuff, clearly non-Pulitzer-worthy, and not very arduous) observation:
Paul, if I may call you that, public social spending is not (as you state) merely a “reasonable proxy” for measuring the size of the welfare state, it’s but the tip of the iceberg. I suspect that the Soviet Union had among the lowest social spending in the world before it’s collapse, given that it was so successful in providing demonstrably full employment.
Most socialistic welfare today does not take the form of direct transfer payments to individuals, although those are plentiful enough. No, most of the “social spending” that takes place in the modern socialist state is found on the rolls of public sector employment, corporate welfare, you name it….the sheer size and excessive compensation of government itself, paid, as we should know, by taxing productive activity and, when that proves insufficient, through deficit spending.
Also, I’m sure it was “only” laziness, but you also omitted the United States from your data, which reflects public social spending at a rate of 16% of GDP, nominally equivalent to Ireland, admittedly at the lower end of the Euro-scale, befoer considering one other, rather significant, factor.
You see, the real point here is that the only “reasonable” metric (in my mind) in the measurement of the size of the “welfare state” is total government spending, which might theoretically rise to 100% in the ideal socialistic model. So, matching the data you present, we’re now (as of 2010) talking about 53.1% for Sweden, 46.7% for Germany, 50.6% for Italy, 50.7% for Portugal, 45.0% for Spain, 49.5% for Greece, and a whopping 67.0% for Ireland. The US, at 42.3% isn’t all that far behind.
My point? Welfare takes all forms and, well, there are only so many actually productive activities that remain when government gets ever larger. I don’t think you need a Pulitzer to understand that when the majority of the economy serves a leviathon government sector, the horse can’t really pull the cart that much further…..uhmm, well, before it commences it’s death throes.
Good grief. – HT
Here is the original article:
My colleague David Brooks tells us that Republicans see the economic crisis as showing that the welfare state is in its “death throes”. And it’s true — that is what they think, or claim to think.
And I understand why that’s what they want to think. But the fact that they think this is a testimony to the ability of people to see what they want to see, in the teeth of the evidence.
I mean, how do we measure the size of the welfare state? It’s not a perfect measure, but the OECD calculation of the share of government social expenditure in GDP (pdf) is a reasonable proxy. Here’s what it looks like for selected European countries:
If you look at these data and see them as evidence of the welfare state in its death throes, well, you’re saying a lot about yourself and nothing about reality.