I am usually reluctant to accuse anyone of hypocrisy, and similarly suspicious of those who do. True hypocrisy is relatively rare. A person who condemns bad conduct that he or she has engaged in at another time is not necessarily a hypocrite, for example, and the past conduct does not diminish the legitimacy of the condemnation. Hypocrisy is a form of dishonesty that implicates one’s integrity, as it involves taking a position of convenience that isn’t sincerely held, or holding others to standards that one still refuses to apply to oneself.
If there is an outrageous hypocrisy line, however, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman crossed it today with his op-ed belittling Sen. Jim Bunning and Republicans who opposed extending unemployment benefits. He wrote, in a piece entitled “Sen. Bunning’s Universe”:
“…the Congressional Budget Office says that aid to the unemployed is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, as measured by jobs created per dollar of outlay. But that’s not how Republicans see it. Here’s what Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, had to say when defending Mr. Bunning’s position (although not joining his blockade): unemployment relief “doesn’t create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.”
In Mr. Kyl’s view, then, what we really need to worry about right now — with more than five unemployed workers for every job opening, and long-term unemployment at its highest level since the Great Depression — is whether we’re reducing the incentive of the unemployed to find jobs. To me, that’s a bizarre point of view — but then, I don’t live in Mr. Kyl’s universe. And the difference between the two universes isn’t just intellectual, it’s also moral.”
But the fact of the matter is that Krugman does live in Kyl’s universe after all! Thanks to the digging of Wall Street Journal wit James Taranto, who, like me, is frequently annoyed by Krugman’s excesses, we have this quote from the economics textbook called Macroeconomics:
“Public policy designed to help workers who lose their jobs can lead to structural unemployment as an unintended side effect. . . . In other countries, particularly in Europe, benefits are more generous and last longer. The drawback to this generosity is that it reduces a worker’s incentive to quickly find a new job. Generous unemployment benefits in some European countries are widely believed to be one of the main causes of “Eurosclerosis,” the persistent high unemployment that affects a number of European countries.”
The author of the tome is, of course, Paul Krugman, and his wife.
Krugman could have escaped my definition of hypocrisy if he merely had noted respectfully that Kyl and Bunning are erroneously adopting the economic theory put forth by a Nobel Prize winning economist—him!—but that he has abandoned his former opinion in the light of new evidence. But to call an opinion completely consistent with Krugman’s own published scholarly work “a bizarre point of view” is gold medal-winning hypocrisy, strikingly unfair and dishonest, if not evidence of approaching senility.