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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fields of Expertise

Paul Krugman asks for reciprocal visiting rights into areas covered by other columnists and explains why he deserves to have them:

Fields of Expertise, by Paul Krugman, Money Talks, NYT: Bruce Bartlett has posted a reply of sorts to my March 10 column, “The Conservative Epiphany.” It’s interesting, because he admits that for a time he was deterred from speaking up about the Bush administration’s flaws because he feared, correctly, that he would be fired from his think-tank job if he did. I won’t pass personal judgment on his behavior; I often tell people that one main reason I was willing to criticize Bush when he was still very popular, and when critics were routinely smeared and accused of being unpatriotic, was that I knew that I could always go back to just being a college professor — in Europe if necessary.

But I would like to respond to one point, because lots of people who criticize me say the same thing (and I occasionally hear it from people at The Times itself): that I should have stuck to economics, my field of expertise, rather than venturing into other areas. I could point out that as far as I can tell, every other op-ed columnist at the Times writes about economics. Don’t I get reciprocal visiting rights?

Anyway, what that criticism really means is that I shouldn’t have written about the Iraq war. But the sad fact is that I got things more nearly right on Iraq than the vast majority of opinion writers at major newspapers, including commentators who are supposed to be experts on foreign policy.

I call it a sad fact because I was a skeptic and a pessimist. At a time when most commentators, even liberals, believed that the Bush administration was making an honest case for war, I suggested that the administration was exaggerating the threat. At a time when quite a few commentators, again including liberals, were enthusiastic about the idea of throwing America’s military weight around, I argued that the occupation of Iraq would be much harder than the invasion; I predicted that the Bush administration would botch the occupation and the reconstruction; and I warned that the war would weaken America’s position in the world. I wish I hadn’t been right on all these points, but I was.

Why did I get it right, when so few other commentators did? Partly because, as Mr. Bartlett suggests, I wasn’t afraid of losing my job. But mainly, I think, because I was able to apply to foreign policy the lessons about the administration’s character and competence that I had learned from covering economic policy.

    Posted by on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 at 01:23 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (14)


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