And in This Corner….

How much would you pay to see Paul Krugman debate the irrepressible Austrian economist Bob Murphy?

Murphy isn’t the first Austrian to challenge Krugman to a debate, but I bet he’s the cleverest. He’s calling for pledged donations to help the New York City Food Bank feed the hungry — with the pledges contingent on Krugman’s accepting the challenge. The pledge total is currently around $40,000 and Murphy is hoping to hit $100,000. Then Krugman can choose between facing off against Murphy or denying $100,000 worth of food assistance to the poorest of the poor — an option that in another context, Krugman himself might be quick to label as “callous”. Or worse yet, “Republican”. Here‘s where you go to pony up.

I would love to see this debate, all the moreso after watching Murphy’s two promotional videos, each so entertaining in its own way that they made me want to send him money independent of the Krugman thing. Watch, and enjoy:

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16 Responses to “And in This Corner….”


  1. 1 1 Bennett Haselton

    Perhaps donors should have the option of specifying that if Krugman doesn’t take the challenge, they’ll donate the money to [insert Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" a.k.a. the "Tonight Show's Dick Cheney theme music"] the Republican National Committee!

    Not every donor would want to specify that option, but some would, and it would make it harder for Krugman to turn down the debate.

  2. 2 2 Fenn

    Wow. No offense intended but I am pretty surprised at the stuff econbloggers find funny. Those were both pretty painful. Same with the Mankiw skit about Colbert and the unwatchable Russ Roberts rap.

    Much preferred the yo yo.

    Nifty idea, though. Wonder if he’ll take the bait.

  3. 3 3 Harold

    What specifically will they debate? Austrian vs Keynsian business cycle theory is a bit vague. If it not yet fixed, Krugman should suggest something that Murphy may find disagreeable. Then Krugman gets “his” debate, or Murphy is the one to back down.

    However, I doubt that it will shed much light either way. Each will come up with examples and data to back up their view, and the issue is too complex to get accross in an hour. Imagine a debate on Arrow’s theory, and multiply the difficulties by a large number. Probably the “simplest” arguments will win, not necessarily the “right” arguments.

    That said, if the terms can be agreed it should be an interesting event, and should generate some heat if not light.

  4. 4 4 Josh

    I wake up and check three blogs virtually every morning. Yours, Krugman’s, and mankiw’s. No wonder I’m so confused about macroeconomic issues!

  5. 5 5 Sam

    ‘Then Krugman can choose between facing off against Murphy or denying $100,000 worth of food assistance to the poorest of the poor’

    Steve, since when is ransoming food-donations to the poor ever appropriate.

    Why put a moral gun to Krugman’s head? Damned if he does, dammed if he doesn’t, that’s why. Pretty low in my view.

  6. 6 6 Thomas Purzycki

    This is far from ransom. It’s not like that money would have been going to the poor if Murphy hadn’t come up with this idea.

  7. 7 7 Josh

    Why would Krugman be “damned if he does”? If he’s confident in his views, he should be able to at least hold his ground.

  8. 8 8 Nick

    Krugman isn’t the only one assuming reputational risk, although he has more to lose than Murphy. The questions are whether or not Murphy is actually willing to go through with his claim (i.e. poses a credible threat), and the extent to which Krugman is aware of Murphy’s intentions (i.e. has complete information).

    Judging from the musings of this blog alone, Krugman might not have much to lose reputationally.

  9. 9 9 Dave

    I would love to see this happen but I imagine has the same level of disdain and disrespect for Austrian economists as Richard Dawkins has for Creationists.

  10. 10 10 Dave

    I meant “…Krugman has the same…”

  11. 11 11 Andrew B

    SL, Let’s go into business offering “Krugman Acceptance” insurance. Footing the bill for our client/donors, should Krugman accept the invitation, would surely increase the number of donors and the average amount donated.

  12. 12 12 Stumbo

    How do you say “Murphy” in Austrian?

  13. 13 13 Neil

    LOL. Not going to happen, unless Krugman takes leaves of his senses. If it does, I will immediately challenge Bernanke to debate monetary policy and Summers to debate fiscal policy.

    Only a cloud-cuckoo-land Austrian economist would issue this challenge.

  14. 14 14 Fake Name

    Prof. Landsburg,

    I wanted to comment on your last post on capital gains tax being a tax on savers (and a form of double taxation) but comments on that entry have been closed.

    Megan McArdle of the Atlantic writes today that the corporate tax should be eliminated in lieu of which capital gains and dividends should be treated the same as wages. Though I like her reasoning about the elimination of corporate tax, I am not so sure if making that politically palatable by treating capital gains as wages for tax purposes is the way to go.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2010/10/why-we-should-eliminate-the-corporate-income-tax/65351

    Also more interestingly an NBER paper has come out which claims that the minimum wage is good because:

    1. It increased human capital: Teenagers went to school and increased their knowledge and education instead of working at low-skilled low paying jobs

    2. It allowed employers, faced with an inability to hire low-skilled low-cost workers, to substitute capital for low-skilled labour and to innovate new technologies.

    https://www.nber.org/papers/w16355

    Do you think the benefits of the minimum wage as outlined by the paper outweigh the costs? It would be great to read your criticisms of the paper.

  15. 15 15 Sam

    @ Thomas

    Fair enough. I was thinking more in terms of Krugman’s moral credibility was what is ‘hostage’ and the donations being the ransom.

    @ Josh,

    Also, fair enough. I’m sure Krugman can hold his ground, and whatever ground he does hold will, I suspect, not sway the opposition even slightly. So I say ‘damned if he does’ because, from Krugman’s point of view, there’s not really anything to gain other than firing up the trolls (which serves no political purpose).

    Now, this is something I would like to see. The little I do know each camps arguments lack any depth, and I would be interested to see how Murphy responds to the cyclical argument, and Krugman the structural argument, but I fear it would be a case of each talking past the other, without any real resolution.

  16. 16 16 Ricardo Cruz

    Fake Name writes:

    2. It allowed employers, faced with an inability to hire low-skilled low-cost workers, to substitute capital for low-skilled labour and to innovate new technologies.

    That’s true, but wasting capital is not a positive point.

    You want capital going into it’s most profitable uses. Given the huge high skill labor premium already, it sounds pretty dumb to invest in machinery to further depress low skilled wages. Capital would be better used, you know, if going into high-skill labor saving devices, or into building skyscrapers to save land, or anything else more scarce than low skill labor.

    With regard to the 1st point, it sounds terribly totalitarian. Can you not process what you just wrote? Even if true, who are you to tell a young adult, he is better off rushing into college, rather than cool down for a couple years and perform a low skill job. And why is it always assumed the wage premium of a high skill job necessarily increases welfare — let the person decide for itself.

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