It’s not very often that Brad DeLong and Paul Krugman find themselves epitomizing
opposite sides of an issue, but DeLong seems to have become Alan Greenspan’s
apologist in chief even as Krugman sticks
the knife in to the Maestro today. A series of commentators has attacked
Greenspan in recent days, and DeLong has done his best to rebut them all: John
himself. He even popped up in
the comments section of Portfolio.com to claim that Greenspan’s crime in
January 2001 is no more than a misdemeanor.
In his review
of Greenspan’s book, DeLong is positively gushing, saying that Greenspan’s
record as Fed chairman is "amazing", and "certainly much better
than most economists I know could have done"; he even calls Greenspan a
"veritable rock-star economist-technocrat".
It’s all a bit weird: why would DeLong, a man of the left, spend so much effort
defending the record of an Ayn Rand disciple who describes himself as a libertarian
Republican and who is generally credited with smoothing the path to a series
of fiscally disastrous tax cuts in 2001?
Maybe one hint can be found in Dan
Okrent’s review of Greenspan’s book:
Surprisingly for a self-described "lifelong Republican," Greenspan
was happiest as Fed chairman when Clinton was in the White House. (He also
liked his time running Ford’s Council of Economic Advisors, where it was his
pleasant responsibility "to shoot down harebrained fiscal policy schemes.")
With the first George Bush, Greenspan had what he calls a "terrible relationship."
He faults the administration of Bush II for a -decision-making process driven
entirely by political calculation.
By comparison, he found the Democratic interregnum sandwiched between two
slices of Bush a version of Periclean Athens, where dedicated men (Bob Rubin,
Larry Summers, Clinton, himself) made decisions in the nation’s long-term
DeLong himself was an important economist-technocrat within the Clinton administration,
along with Rubin and Summers and Greenspan himself. He might not have achieved
rock-star status (except within the blogosphere, and that came later), but I
daresay that Greenspan would be happy to give DeLong some credit for his contributions
to this Periclean utopia.
If Krugman had joined the Clinton administration while DeLong became more of
an economics popularizer and columnist, might their views of Greenspan be different
today? Probably not, but I’m not sure where else this big gap between the two
might have come from.