Jan

13

 My friend Kim sent me this article "Climate of Hate" by Paul Krugman. It got me thinking.  Why is it every 'news' outlet seeks out the opinion and commentary of the then current media darling on each and every topic, regardless of that darling's expertise and/or knowledge thereof?

One should be perfectly happy to include Krugman's thoughts on 'the economy' in the body of economic literature one reviews/studies, whether one is aligned with his thinking on same or not. He has exhibited his expertise in the discipline and, at the very least, he provides a legitimate counterpoint.But, when exactly did Krugman become a learned sociologist, psychologist, political scientist, etc? Not that he's not entitled to personal opinion. Certainly, he is, as much as are the rest of us. But why should any of us find his opinion on a topic in which he has produced no body of scholarly or practical work any more credible or influential than that of anyone else? If we do, shame on us for being influenced.

Why is Sean Penn asked for his thoughts on Cuban relations? It's pretty clear he has demonstrated his stellar acting abilities. But, does activism and meeting with dictators for a couple of hours here and there constitute expertise? Is there no one with greater insight into these matters?

Why are/were Sornette's and Mandelbrot's thoughts on finance sought out? Is there no financier more credible? [Ok, this is an attempt at levity. Everyone knows that after Stephen Hawking, these guys are/were the smartest guys on the planet and everything they say/said about anything should be taken as gospel.]

It's a given that many are quite broad and reasonably deep in a number of subjects. But those who are generally have a record of clear accomplishments in, not just an abiding interest in, more than one discipline. Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Ken Dryden and Wayne Rogers [whose thoughts might very well have helped prevent what led to the recent recession, if only Congress had heeded his 1991 testimony urging it not to repeal Glass-Steagall] are a few that come to mind.

The point is, as much as we ought take great care in who we nominate and elect to public office, we ought also take great care in evaluating opinion pieces, and we ought always consider the source. Not that an accomplished individual cannot have a reasonable thought regarding a discipline or event outside of one's area of expertise. They can, just as much as they are entitled to express them and to be published. But, one might think that authority should be earned, not bestowed, and that credibility requires a greater standard than fleeting popularity with the media or general public.

I, myself, have no idea what motivated this gunman to shoot innocent people in Tucson. We may never know. But, if we do, it likely will be Mr. Loughner himself, not Mr. Krugman, nor Glenn Beck, who tells us what that was.


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