Ross Douthat To Replace Kristol On NY Times Op Ed Page

The New York Times has picked Ross Douthat to replace Bill Kristol as a weekly columnist. I previously noted that his name was one being mentioned, even if I did prefer someone more from the libertarian portion of the right.

Douthat is a considerable improvement over Kristol, even if I frequently disagree with his views. Douthat has noted that the Republicans are in trouble due to failure to address today’s issues. On the other hand his advice for the GOP would perpetuate their problems by continuing to embrace the archaic views of the social conservatives. At times he even managed to be as irrational as Kristol, such as when writing about eugenics.

I have commented on Douthat’s writing several times in the past and anticipate doing so even more in the future when writing for the opinion page of the nation’s premier newspaper. I expect that Douthat will provide far more material worthy of discussion. Even if I disagree with him, this will be a welcome change from Bill Kristol whose columns were often both factually inaccurate and composed of poorly reasoned arguments. There was little point in commenting on his material very often as simply pointing out the incoherence of his work would become tedious. At least I expect that Douthat will write material which is worthy of rebuttal (and hopefully there will sometimes be areas of agreement).

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29 Comments

  1. 1
    pomoc says:

    What a load of gobbledygook ,Wake Up and smell the smoke from your soul burning ???????????

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Someone who talks about souls burning is in no position to say something by someone else is gobbleygook.

  3. 3
    daryl stahl says:

    On the npr several months ago I heard Mr. Douthat badmouth my episcopal church.  Maintaining his family left because of wishywashy liberal views.  I wonder if he ever read Hooker,Herbert,Donne, AND all other great theologians and poets who found the way the truth and the life in their journey into faith. found great strenth in the tradition, reason,and scripture . He and his parents found the magisterum, and I wish them the best, but  as an episcopalian I dont appreciate  his illiberal comments.  Daryl

  4. 4
    Hugh says:

    Yea, I know what you mean.  I feel the same way about Krugman, after a while one has to ignore all the factual mistakes and omissions or just stop reading.  Its embarrassing, he could keep the corrections page at full employment by himself if he’d just own up to even a quarter of his inaccuracies.  

  5. 5
    Marshall Gill says:

    I accidentally came here from RCP. After a very brief perusal of this blog and considering that you called the NYT the “nation’s premier newspaper” wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call your blog “Leftist Values”? I realize that this is semantics and that they way to change society is through the use of words but how about a little intellectual integrity?

    “Defending Liberty” through coercion? If that isn’t Orwellian nothing is. Sad how people can view themselves as “enlightened” and know nothing of Voltaire. Where do you defend the “Liberty” of conservatives, one wonders.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Marshall,

    I would think that even conservatives like Douthat recognize the significance of the NY Times considering all the attention paid to the spot and his decision to leave The Atlantic.

    Leftist Values? If you consider support for individual liberty, a free market system, and a rational defense leftist, then you may call it that. Regardless, there is no lack of intellectual integrity in the current name.

    Defending liberty is what is being advocated here. There’s nothing Orwellian about it. What makes you think that I know nothing of Voltaire? Of course there were many other great thinkers during the age of enlightenment beyond Voltaire who have influenced my thought.

    I defend the liberty of everyone, including conservatives here. Of course I do not defend the “liberty” of conservatives to impose their views upon others. That would be Orwellian, but unfortunately is how too many conservatives think.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:

    Hugh,

    It’s easy to make such a claim but I have never seen anyone find factual errors in Krugman’s columns which are comparable to what we’ve seen from Kristol. Disagreeing with you is not the same as making factual errors.

  8. 8
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Paul Krugman is also a professional in his field, with plenty of expertise to be certain of the facts he is speaking and their basis in such science as exists in economics. The peer-review process agrees.

    There is wiggle room in a lot of areas of economic theory, because it all depends on fallible human actions.  If anything, his ‘facts’ take that into account, where the right wing views on the matter are for more rigid.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:

    Not only is he a professional in the field, but Krugman also won a Nobel Prize in the field. Of course the anti-intellectuals who have taken control of the conservative movement in recent years would probably see winning the Nobel Prize as a negative.

  10. 10
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I had intended to mention the Nobel Prize, initially, but after some thought I was wondering just what you said, Ron.

    I remember how they sneered at Al Gore’s Nobel Prize and figured mentioning Krugman’s wouldn’t serve any real purpose. 🙂

  11. 11
    Fritz says:

    When discussing the worthiness of recipients of the Nobel, it might be best to exclude the Political, er, Peace Price.  There are too many unsavory counter-examples, ranging from Kissinger to Arafat. 

    In terms of economists (especially pundit economists), I think a significant weight should be put simply on “Did he predict the credit meltdown?”.  Does anyone know how Krugman did on that question?

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    An even more interesting question is whether he turns out to be right regarding stimulus spending, including his belief that even more spending is needed. Of course that will be hard to answer since we will not have a controlled study of different amounts (or zero) stimulus spending under the exact circumstances.

    While both of these questions are of interest, ability to predict is different from the issues with Kristol such as whether information contained in columns are factual.

  13. 13
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Krugman and other left-of-center Keynesians have been saying things were worse than the public thought, not better, since the first discussion of recession began and the conservative pundits and Wall Street mouthpieces started trying to talk the economy up. The credit collapse would appear to confirm their statements. Whether or not the predicted the precise disaster, they clearly new something and said something.

  14. 14
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic — good to hear.  I mostly have been hearing predictions of collapse from entirely the other side — Austrian school and people in the Ron Paul movement.  So both sets of outliers were right and the core was wrong?  Hmm..

  15. 15
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I have been pondering the best way to answer your question and have not been able to come up with an answer that satisfies me. I believe that both the Austrian School and the New Dealers had the same basic, visceral reaction to the reverse-socialism of supply side economics of the kind en vogue from Reagan to G.W. Bush and that both believed that the establishment had been dealing the economy in only one way: talking it up until people believed them. I think both sides felt that could only work for so long.

  16. 16
    Fritz says:

    Eclectic — so then the difference is that the Austrians and the new New Dealers will have fundamentally different predictions about the effect of the current policy of dropping a metric buttload of new borrowed money into the system while maintaining government control of interest rates.  Do you think that is a fair statement?

  17. 17
    Eclectic Radical says:

    Oh, I think that goes without saying. Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich may agree Bush screwed up the country, but they have totally different ideas about how to fix it no matter what great buddies they are when they are off work. 🙂

    I would never pretend the Austrians would approve of active government intervention, even in time of crisis, or that New Dealers would ever approve of absolute government inaction in a time of crisis. It’s just unthinkable based on their differing views of economics.

  18. 18
    Fritz says:

    Since there are no Austrian-based economists anywhere around the levers of power, I guess we will be trying the New Dealer approach.  If it doesn’t work will everyone then admit that they were wrong and the Austrians were right all along?

  19. 19
    Ron Chusid says:

    The problem is that we don’t have a good way to measure if it works and we don’t have a controlled test of Austrian plans. This downturn very well cold turn out to last several years regardless of what is done. We have no way to know if this is because of the failure of Obama’s plans or if a different approach would do better. At least we might get some information but I doubt we will have a conclusive answer.

    If Obama’s plans don’t work it also does not mean that an Austrian approach would help. Liberal economists are complaining that Obama’s stimulus plan isn’t spending enough. How do we know that the problem isn’t that Obama is too centrist in his approach?

    This is how religious adherents to conservative economic theory convince themselves they are right. If things don’ go well they claim it was because their views were not tried, but there is no evidence that we would have done better, and plenty of ammunition for those who think we would do far worse if we didn’t have government action now.

    To say that the failure of Obama’s plans to quickly fix the economy proves Austrians were right is sort of like saying that the failure of Bush to adequately respond to Katrina means that the outcome would have been better if there was zero government intervention post-Katrina, when the real answer in this case was that this showed the failure of Bush’s approach to governing.

  20. 20
    Eclectic Radical says:

    There has been one test, at least in part, of Austrian School ideas in the modern era. The Russian government, during the period of drastic privatization of the early 1990s, was advised by more than a few disgruntled Western economic conservatives drooling at the chance for a free hand to experiment in Russia. Principles of the ‘free market’ that had never truly existed in the United States were tried on a massive scale in Russia. The result was endemic economic collapse, hyperinflation, and a huge upsurge in organized criminal investment in the business sector. Putin, when he took power, brought much of this to and end by reimposing socialist controls while retaining the private enterprise system.

    Many of the people involved in the Russian experiment went on to become involved in the economic policies of the Bush administration.

  21. 21
    Fritz says:

    Ron, you label calls for a true free-market approach religious (and I acknowledge my non-rational preference for it).  But you also state that empirical counter-evidence would not be enough to sway believers in more government control (“Maybe there should have been even more!”).  That sounds just as religious.

    IMO, the “failure” of the Bush administration to Katrina is primarily that the Bush administration believed there was supposed to be a Federal backup to state efforts and there were basically no state preparations in Louisiana.  The fact that the same Bush administration did not “fail” during 4 major hurricanes the year before in Florida indicates that the failure might be in the state government operations.  Brownie being a tool didn’t help either, of course.

    And, yeah, Eclectic, the attempt to sell off state assets in Russia did not go at all well.  Taking monstrous state enterprises apart without the level of control that, say, MacArthur had in Japan is pretty tricky.

  22. 22
    Ron Chusid says:

    Fritz,

    I’ll leave it to Paul Krugman to argue with you (if he so desires) whether a belief that more government spending is indicated is based upon empiric data as opposed to a religious belief in the power of big government.

    We did not have hurricanes of the level of Katrina prior to Katrina so his lack of failure doesn’t mean anything. We had warnings before Katrina of the damage which was coming which clearly indicated the need for federal involvement, but these warnings were ignored (kind of like the warnings before 9/11).

    The problems with Brownie is just one example of poor (or politicized) hiring decisions by the Bush administration with adverse results.

  23. 23
    Eclectic Radical says:

    I have to correct you both on Katrina. The Bush administration’s failure in that areas was due neither to the assumption that FEMA’s job was to back up the state effort (and I will agree with Fritz that the state disaster relief efforts, in Louisiana, were not much better managed than the federal government’s if at all) nor the unprecedented severity of Katrina (New Orleans did not suffer very much direct damage from Katrina itself at all, the worst direct damage inflicted by Katrina was inflicted in Mississippi, which was why Bush felt it so important to spend so much time there prior to his brief photo op in New Orleans) but rather one of infrastructure. The majority of the press coverage has been related to the hurricane itself or to the horrible mismanagement of relief efforts after the flooding, but the problem in New Orleans was that the system of locks, dikes, and dams along the Mississippi river and at the entrance to Lake Ponchartrain were unable to withstand the higher water volume created by the hurricane and, some time after the hurricane had passed and people thought the worst of the storm was over, they failed and the river flooded large portions of the city.

    A handful of people (most notably Harry Shearer) have attempted to direct the debate away from the questions of racism, disaster relief, and hurricane damage to the real issue with little success, as refugees and hate crimes are much sexier headlines and sound bites. The majority of the mainstream press and conservative press have dismissed such people are part of the liberal propaganda machine, while the majority of the liberal press has continued to focus on FEMA, the refugee problem, the rebuilding scandals, or racial strife in the wake of the hurricane. The real issue continues to be mostly ignored.

    The system of locks on the Mississippi river is under the purvue of the Army Corps of Engineers. They built the system and are responsible for its maintenance. During the early part of the Bush administration, they delivered a report that major refurbishing was necessary on the locks. The administration put this report on a list of ‘unnecessary’ expenditures to be eliminated. So the locks were not refurbished, and after Katrina struck they failed.

    In a very real sense the Bush administration was responsible for the damage done to New Orleans in the wake of Katrina, in a way they were not responsible for hurricane damahe in Mississippi. I am not trying to shrug off the way everyone in the state (at both the state and federal level) screwed the pooch on relief efforts, but this is relatively minor garden variety incompetence compared to the depraved indifference of failing to authorize proper maintenance that could have prevented the degree of disaster that befell New Orleans in the first place.

    Fritz, I mention Russia because the thinkers behind the specific plan and means of privatization were the aforementioned conservative Western economists with Austrian sympathies. The ideals being trumpeted by the Austrians now, were put into effect very aggressively in Russia.

  24. 24
    Fritz says:

    Ron, I believe that *each* of the 4 hurricanes that struck Florida in the year before Katrina were more powerful than Katrina when they hit land (IIRC Katrina was a cat 4 when it hit and all 4 of the ones in the previous year were cat 5 at landfall).  As Eclectic points out, one major problem with New Orleans was that it is below the level of the surrounding water, so that water came and, well, didn’t leave.   But Katrina was not the most powerful hurricane to ever hit the country.  In fact I’m pretty sure it was not the most powerful hurricane that year.

    The Corps of Engineers is responsible for the levees, and upgrading them was delayed (IIRC not just by the Bush administration).  And also the city keeps sinking — making the levees progressively less effective even if everything else stays the same.  Anyone who rebuilds in New Orleans below the level of Lake Ponchartrain is crazy.

    As for Russia — I know of nothing in Austrian economic theory that would elucidate the best means of transferring large number of assets from state to private hands while not having a hellaciously bumpy ride.

  25. 25
    Ron Chusid says:

    I was referring to the expected damage as a consequence from Katrina, not the severity of the storm. The intensity of the storm is not the key point. What matters is how much damage was expected to the area. The flooding was predicted prior to Katrina hitting. If NPR and other news outlets were running stories with such predictions before Katrina hit the White House certainly should have been aware of such warnings and the federal government should have been prepared.

  26. 26
    Fritz says:

    As should the Louisiana authorities.  And they weren’t.  Which might explain why they now have a Republican governor (or maybe they just like exorcists).

    All I’m saying is that it is really too simplistic a story line to dump this mess on the Bush administration.  They were certainly a tempting target, but local and state authorities were also egregiously unprepared for, as we both agree, a predictable disaster.   Hell, National Geographic had a great article only a few months earlier with really good predictions about what could happen.

    At some point there should be an honest national (or at least a state) debate about what taxpayers where are willing to foot the bill to keep a city going that is below the altitude of the surrounding water.  The Dutch have little choice in the matter, given their geography, but for us it is an optional luxury.  But we should be up front about the continuing bill and should decide who pays how much if we want to keep it.  And then continue to make the payments — because the levees will need to be raised every decade from now on.

  27. 27
    Ron Chusid says:

    Louisiana authorities might have also screwed up but the ultimate responsibility fell with the federal government. Under Harry Truman the principle was “The Buck Stops Here.” Under Bush the principle has been to shift the blame to others whenever possible.

  28. 28
    Fritz says:

    That is a fundamental point of disagreement between us.  I don’t see the Federal government as having the final responsibility in all matters.

    I honestly don’t have the time to dig through whatever is public record, but I wonder what FEMA is supposed to do when a state does not file coherent disaster preparedness plans and/or is clearly unprepared.

  29. 29
    Ron Chusid says:

    It isn’t just a matter of disagreement between us. Whether or not you agree it should be this way, the federal government has this responsibility. Congressional investigations post Katrina also demonstrated the failure of the White House to meet its responsibilities under the circumstances.

    That doesn’t mean that local and state officials weren’t also at fault, but the incompetence of the Bush administration cannot be excused by findings that others were also incompetent.

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