Paul Krugman’s August 10 op-ed attempts to mock advocates of unregulated free markets and, unsurprisingly, makes a pathetically weak case against them.
First let’s clear up an important matter of terminology. Although Krugman aims his criticism at “libertarians,” most of his remarks pertain to advocates of unregulated free markets. Many people who advocate free markets are not libertarians but radical capitalists, and many libertarians do not consistently advocate free markets or do not do so on solid philosophic ground. (For a discussion of the differences between libertarians and radical capitalists, see Craig Biddle’s “Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism.”)
As to the “substance” of Krugman’s argument, it is largely invective. He claims, for instance, that free markets are unrealistic, that those who advocate free markets are motivated by “rage,” that they operate by “pretending” and “imagining” things about markets and government that are not the case, that they “tend to engage in projection,” and that they are living a “foolish fantasy.” Krugman spends so much of his article making fun of free-market advocates that he never gets around to presenting a genuine argument against them.
And when he appears to be attempting an argument, he ends up attacking straw men or making unsupported assertions. Consider his “argument” that product safety depends on the Food and Drug Administration and other federal bureaucracies, in which he misrepresents the nature of a free market and then mocks his own straw man. . . .