WASHINGTON D.C.—I’ve seen “De-Lovely” at least six times now. Cole Porter’s personal life was a wreck, but when it came to words and music he had no peer. Not even in two people at once, like Gilbert and Sullivan, or Rodgers and Hammerstein, for instance. I begin this column with a Porter quote from “You’re the Top,” and the subject is Paul Krugman.
As my wife says of people who take themselves far too seriously, “He sends his shirts out to be stuffed.” By all that’s right and holy, Krugman should be one of the great men of our generation. He graduated from Yale, and other top drawer universities. He has taught there, and is now at Princeton. He won a Nobel Prize in economics, and his twaddle (excuse me, his philosophy) appears regularly in his New York Times column.
My education includes Yale and various other reputable institutions. My knowledge of economics and world history are not exactly chopped liver. Frequently, I can recognize exactly where and how Krugman goes off the rails and concludes the exact opposite of what is happening in the real world, where real people live and work.
I read some of Krugman’s blog entries before sitting down for this column. I understand why he goes off the deep end, and also why so few people call him out for such errors. He travels the world in a cloud of like-thinking people, who periodically roost in famous places and massage each other’s egos — and of course, so correct on all matters.
When I was growing up, I thought that Yale was the top of the academic universe. We did give some credit to “Harvard students” and “Princeton boys.” I thought that the New York Times was the top of the journalistic world, and I thought the Nobel Prize in your profession was the best one could hope for. Well, since then I’ve experienced the educated, tenured, nonsense produced by entirely too many faculty from those institutions. I’ve met people like the late, great Dr. Milton Friedman, and I know a true intellectual.
I’ve read newspapers from around the world, and other sources of facts. I’ve discovered that whenever the New York Times has a political ax to grind in a particular story, it will twist and ignore the facts to produce a dishonest story that is worse journalism ethics than in the lowliest supermarket tabloid.
I have read and learned from people who are far better educated, and better grounded than Paul Krugman. It did not take the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama to realize that the Awards Committee was seeking political results, not recognition of career achievement. I knew that when the Committee awarded the economics prize to Krugman without awarding one to a far more able and brilliant economist, Thomas Sowell. There are many other examples of bias in the Nobel Awards, especially in the area of Literature Prizes.
The bottom line of all this is that the world is littered with people who have positions, titles and awards that would make you think that they are on top of whatever their careers are. But those labels can be especially deceptive when they are passed out because the people giving them are doing nothing more than welcoming the recipients into the club.
After decades of observation, I’ve discovered that there is a single, common characteristic in people who present themselves as experts, are accepted as experts, but who are dumb as a hoe handle in the real world. That characteristic is isolation. They are isolated from people who challenge their beliefs. They are isolated from the real world disciplines of success and failure, and most importantly, they are isolated from the need — which all true scientists in every field live by — to test their theories against observed facts.
As long as these superior human beings believe in themselves, and a critical mass of sycophants go along with the gag, they are what they claim to be. Perhaps the right song lyrics to describe such people, and institutions, is from another of my favorites, “My Fair Lady.” Liza Dolittle sings to her “reverberating friend”:
“Without your pulling it the tide rolls in,
Without your twirling it the Earth can spin,
Without your pushing them, the clouds roll by,
If they can do without you, ducky, so can I.”