Arnold Kling  

Kling vs. NY Times

Morning Commentary... Sentences of the Day...

1. In journalism, there is a term known as fact-checking.

2. When a columnist puts a person's words in quotes, that represents a fact, which ought to be checked.

3. The quote attributed to me in Paul Krugman's column was not a quote. It was a distorted paraphrase

4. A similar paraphrase to the one Krugman used has been used by others to portray me as a racist.

5. See for yourself what I actually said.

Below is an unofficial transcript (from a commenter). It should be checked against the actual video.

Thank you. I'd like to thank the sponsors of this conference for inviting me to speak. I think about what's going on, what's happening today, as an economist, but I feel it as a father. My wife and I have three daughters, aged between 19 and 25, and when I see what's being done to their future, I am really angry. Back in September, when they were talking about taking $700 billion to "unclog the financial system," I wanted to take Henry Paulson and *yank* him out of the TV screen and say, "You keep your hands off my daughters' future!" But he got away with it. And I had to -- for me it was like sitting there watching my house being ransacked by a gang of thugs. And now we've got a new gang of thugs, and they're going to do the same thing. So, anyway, that's how I feel, we'll go back to how I think.

The video of the full conference is here.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (49 to date)
mgunn writes:

Out of principle, shouldn't you ask for a correction from the New York Times?

Dan Weber writes:

Once enough other people have repeated the lie, it becomes truth.

josh writes:

How far is this going to go? Is Arnold going to lose his job over this?

Caliban Darklock writes:

I keep thinking:

Those whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad. ;)

Apparently, people are getting annoyed at you. Your ideas and discourse have made their lives uncomfortable, and they would like you to be discredited so you'll shut up.

So these self-styled gods, in order to destroy you, are trying to drive you mad.

The lack of comment by those who follow your writing has been noted by some people as approval of the statements attributed to you. In truth, it's more like when you see those headlines on tabloids that say so-and-so is pregnant and so-and-so is gay. Anyone who knows you sees immediately that the claim is ridiculously false, and ignores it. Why would Angelina Jolie's friends run around telling people the latest rumor isn't true? They have better things to do than correct stupid people all day. So do I.

Brad Hutchings writes:

I cancelled my free subscription to their daily news blast. And the LA Times has a way better Sudoku, so no need to ever visit their site again. Losers.

mjh writes:

Is this a fair assessment?

Not only are Paul Krugman's interpretations of the facts more like politics and less like economics, but now his ability to accurately repeat facts is suspect.
Or am I mistaken?

dearieme writes:

Chin up, old boy. When the tumbril comes, it won't be for you but for people like Krugman.

David writes:

Mr. Kling's discussion starts at about 40:30 in the video. I read the text of the "unofficial" transcript as the video played and it is an exact match (besides the 'ummms', etc.). Those people calling Mr. Kling a racist should apologize. I don't even understand why there should instinctively be a connection in peoples' minds between a "gang of thugs" and black people. *That* seems racist to me.

Now, let's get back to the real debate.

Joe_Bag_ODonuts writes:

When readers see comments such as Krugman's, they should respond (comment) on the absence of documentation of the source. In fact, they should remind the writer that by omitting such documentation they insult the reader.

The documentation would serve three purposes. (1) Give the reader a chance to read the exact words of the document. (2) eliminate the need for "fact checking". and (3) If the misquotes continue and are frequent enough, lay the ground work to show the writer KNEW the quote was incorrect, thus opening a possibility for libel charges.

Perhaps all electronic news outlets should include this as principle for the outlet.


8 writes:

Don Luskin will eventually get around to Krugman.

And just look at a long-term chart of the NYT. It's less than 50% of its split-adjusted price in 1986. Maybe not a direct statement on their journalistic skills, but also a non-zero one.

Greg Ransom writes:

Is anyone surprised by this?

At some point it's VITAL to talk about the character of these men.

Joel writes:

I sent an email to the NYT public editor.

Zdeno writes:

Bet you didn't even know you were a racist Arnold, it can be sneaky like that.

I am disappointed in certain economists, both here and at MR, for bending over backwards to maintain cordiality with Paul Krugman and Brad Delong. They are shills. Call them out as such.

von Pepe writes:

Dr. Kling,

I am truly sorry you are being put through this trial. This is not a suprising tactic; it is disgusting.

Please keep your chin-up and continue to do excellent economics.

William writes:

I hate to spoil things here, since I'm completely on your side in this, but I don't really see how Krugman's paraphrase is a distortion.

Okay, you said that it was Paulson's thugs that were ransacking your house, not Obama's, but you certainly seem to imply that the new thugs are not good, either.

The real problem is not that you are being misquoted. It seems to me that you did implicitly call the people who are pushing for the new stimulus thugs, and at least one of those people, Obama, is black.

The problem is the same as with the "reparations" controversy. They take your words and draw out implications that no reasonable person would draw. You really did use the word "reparations" when talking about the bill, too. It's just that no informed person could have failed to recognize that you were referring to post-WWI Germany, not American slavery.

The problem is not that the people who are attacking you are lying about what you say, it's that their conclusions are completely insane. That's much harder to fight.

Robert writes:

My view:

The racist label as applied by Wolcott or anyone else is disgusting and absurd.

The deranged label as applied by Krugman was unfair, distasteful, and un-classy to the extreme. Nevermind the misquote. Have Arnold and Krugman had a fight/argument/feud that I don't know about? I was quite shocked when I read that bit in the column.

The actual statement is rather shrill, but not worthy of more than a small fuss.

beamish writes:

Are you upset that a paraphrase was presented in quotations marks, that the paraphrase doesn't reflect your view, or that your view was described as bordering on the deranged?

TA writes:

Back awhile, Megan McArdle wrote of Krugman something to the effect that "he wrote about economics until he gave it up to focus full time on his hatred of George W. Bush". These days he hates everyone who disagrees with him. He's a piece of work; I'm not sure he's entirely balanced.

Joe Weir writes:

Dr. Kling,

I just wanted to say hang in there. What Wolcott and Krugman are trying to do is shameful. Their behavior reminds me once again of this: "The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie." - Joseph A. Schumpeter.

They are so sure of their righteousness, that any sort of intellectual dishonesty is ok if it serves their version of the greater good.

David writes:

This is what Krugman said:

It’s “destroying my daughters’ future. It is like sitting there watching my house ransacked by a gang of thugs,” said Arnold Kling of the Cato Institute.

(link: )

That is not a correct quote. It's a paraphrase in quotation marks and leaves out the fact that Mr. Kling specifically said he was talking then about his emotional reaction before going on to talk about his reactions as an economist. It also leaves out all mention of Paulson and the TARP which was the primary focus of Mr. Kling's anger in the speech.

Mencius writes:

David writes:

I don't even understand why there should instinctively be a connection in peoples' minds between a "gang of thugs" and black people.

You know, David, I know it's hard to believe these days - but once upon a time in the distant, distant, past, Thomas L. Friedman actually was an interesting and perceptive writer.

And in From Beirut to Jerusalem, he tells a Lebanese joke from the '80s that I find quite relevant to Professor Kling's predicament. At the time, Syria was occupying Lebanon, and the official government of the latter obviously had a somewhat ambivalent relationship with the former.

A Lebanese civilian comes into a police station and asks to speak to an officer. "Excuse me, sir," he says. "I have to report a theft. A Swiss soldier has just stolen my Syrian watch."

The policeman frowns. "You mean - a Syrian soldier stole your Swiss watch?"

"Sir, you said it," says the civilian, "not me."

Maniel writes:

As I'm sure you're aware, our new president is half white. Moreover, his new treasury secretary is white as are most of his economic advisers. Are these the "thugs" you're referring to? Are you implying that all whites are thugs?

Hal Espen writes:

Mr. Kling: Since I'm one of the people who criticized the version of your remarks that were originally published on the Heritage Foundation website, I want to follow up and say that there was nothing at all racist or unseemly in what you actually said. The transcript above, which I checked against the video, is perfectly accurate.

In my opinion, Paul Krugman should publish a correction to his column today, since there was nothing of "the ugliness of the [current] pollitical debate" in your words.

I also note that Conn Carroll has published an apology and has updated his post over at Heritage to reflect your actual words. Regrettably, his apology is an equivocal one. He begins with a snide phrase blaming "the PC Police" for the uproar that flowed from his lousy reporting, and he fails to address the fact that he had approved and applauded the inaccruate version of your remarks — a version that was, sadly, tainted by racist coding and political ugliness.

David W writes:

The sad thing is that the only way to destroy the credibility of the 'racist' accusers is to let them abuse innocents in public. Ironically, this was the same strategy needed to discredit the actual racists back in Rev. King's day.

You do have to wonder what kind of mind jumps from the word 'thug' to 'black person' rather than to 'violent criminal' or even 'Hindu sect'. No wonder they see racists everywhere!

Kevin writes:

Arnold, have your attorney call them up demanding an apology and a few million bucks.

TA writes:

Back awhile, Megan McArdle wrote of Krugman something to the effect that "he wrote about economics until he gave it up to focus full time on his hatred of George W. Bush". These days he hates everyone who disagrees with him. He's a piece of work; I'm not sure he's entirely balanced.

MJ writes:

I'm glad the shoe is on the other foot, it's tough looking in the mirror

Niccolo writes:

This is all quite ridiculous. First, when is this race baiting ever going to stop?

What in Kling's statements could even be remotely misconstrued as "racist"?

Second, Paul Krugman is an evil little man, an evil little man who regularly misquotes people and makes false accusations - aside from that, his political economics really aren't even near sub-par.

Third, Tyler Cowen really should stop with his self-righteous quasi-libertarian act and can end his constant beating of the, "the libertarians are just a bunch of nuts who think the state is much more violent than it actually is." We get it, Cowen, you like to contradict other people who have a background in the old "Austrian" economics. Thank you, you can stop reminding us now.

Fourth, Professor Kling, I am personally sorry that you have to have your name besmirched like this. It is a terrible thing to have your reputation dirtied by men with brains too little to debate you out of merit. I am e-mailing the NYTimes and every other false accuser I can to show my support for you. I am telling the NYT that I am canceling my subscription and will tell my friends and family to do the same if Krugman does not issue an immediate apology.

John V writes:

I'm sorry for the problem this is causing you, Dr. Kling.

It's really silly.

Not only is this all wrong but it would have so easy for those people who did this to avoid it.

They are not however interested in that. It goes to show you.

liberty writes:

"I don't even understand why there should instinctively be a connection in peoples' minds between a "gang of thugs" and black people."

This is the same thing I've been wondering. Seems to me that the people crying "racist" are the ones who should be criticized. I quoted the original (mistaken) cite put up on the Heritage blog, which used Obama by name, proudly; it never occurred to me that anyone could think anything about race-- the image that came to my mind when I read the quote was of Congress ransacking my house like KGB thugs, or Mafia thugs.

When I think "ransacked by a gang of thugs" I think of thugs working for FBI, KGB or Mafia.

Steve Sailer writes:

You have criticized President Obama. That is a crime under the de facto laws of hate speech, lese majeste, and blasphemy.

Criticism of President Obama's ministers will, however, be tolerated for the time being.

Tom writes:


That was a nicely done presentation! It is no wonder Krugman and the lefties are going after you. Your idea that the stimulus package and bank bailouts could lead to a sovereign debt crisis is powerful. It may be unlikely, as you say, but I don't think most Americans understand the possible negative consequences of running a trillion plus budget deficit.

Francis writes:

Mr. Kling;

I haven't watched the video. So, strictly speaking, I don't know who is telling the truth.

But you know what? I don't want to watch it. I happen to agree with those here who say that even in the sentences that those deranged people attribute to you, the racism is in their own mind, not in the words themselves. When I read their quotes the first time, I thought: "So, what?" So I had to think again to finally recall the prejudice that popular culture (movies, etc.) commonly attributed to racists. And also to the fact that people not accustomed to libertarian discourse don't understand the same thing as us when they hear "thugs".

But I hope the support of your readers in this blog, who don't see debate in terms of if-you-are-not-with-me-then-you-are-against-me, will keep you up.

All the best, and please keep up your very good work in explaining your economic viewpoint to us.

Bill Mill writes:

This situation is bullshit, and I hope it's no more than a passing storm. Best of luck.

Snaporaz writes:

Fantastic presentation with some fine points that I'd like to see countered. Count me in as totally clueless to the race issue.

Mike Moore writes:

Krugman has had trouble with journalistic accuracy for years. I read another story from him years ago where he distorted and even fabricated parts of an op-ed from the Wall Street Journal. He seems to read what he wants to read, and is too lazy to look up a quote that may have done his point justice.

Let me chime in and say fight the good fight, Arnold!

Jacob Oost writes:

Dr. Kling, good news! Your speech was so insightful, and devastating to the Obama Patronage System Act--er, I mean stimulus bill--that your critics have resorted to made-up accusations of racism in order to distract from your argument!

Don't stop doing what you do. America needs economists like you telling it like it is, now more than ever (in my lifetime anyway).

BGC writes:

This ought to be a clear cut factual issue, in which those who accused Arnold Kling of racism are roundly condemned as execrable posturing liars.

But even among some of those purportedly 'defending' AK there is a lot of moral posturing going-on, a lot of ethical self-preening and displays of sensitivity and reasonableness. Too many people are more concerned about their own balanced positioning on the issue than about stating the truth and defending AK against rabble-rousing slander.

The Sheep Nazi writes:

I'm glad to see that Arnold's escaped so far with only a couple of tail feathers missing, but I would point out one small irony. Arnold's self-evidently guilty of violating the spirit of the law, seeing as how the spirit of the law is whatever is agreeable to a Krugman. If a Krugman complains about you, you're busted. Be careful what you ask for.

Kurbla writes:

Your language ("keep your hands off my daughters' future!", thugs, yanking) was language of hate. It is important to avoid it.

Bryan Pick writes:

Arnold -

As someone who was actually at the event, I knew right away that they were operating on a misquote. I didn't remember the exact quote, but I knew that the controversy was baseless, and since I saw those big cameras rolling, I knew it was only a matter of time until all those who rushed to judgment got egg on their faces.

But even with the misquote, anyone who's at all familiar with libertarian types should know that when we say "thugs," it's equal-opportunity.

And what you said about the disagreements between economists today being highly personal -- I thought that was spot on when you said it, and it has been borne out in the reaction to your speech.

Your reputation hasn't been harmed among anyone whom you should mind. Those who rushed to judgment against you, however, are on record; most who are able to recognize their mistake won't summon the courage to admit it, and the judgment against them is final.

And by the way, it was a pleasure meeting you after the panel. I enjoyed your presentation most of all.
kurbla -

Do you believe that nothing is rightly detested, or that people should stay quiet about things they detest? You say "it is important", but that begs the question, "to whom?" If you're merely stating your personal preference, say so. If there are other negative consequences to using words like "thug" and "yank" and warning other people not to tread on our children's lives, please tell us about them and let us decide how important it really is.
William -

"The real problem is not that you are being misquoted."

I think you'll agree that it's part of the problem. The context provided by the full, correct quote makes it harder to sell the conclusion that Kling is a racist.

Steve Reilly writes:

I'm glad the record has been set straight. Krugman did something stupid, and the charges of racism were ridiculous.

But I remembered this old post of yours. Krugman called Cheney a monster, and you wrote "But on my worst days I'm not as bitter as Krugman." From the part of your speech that you quoted above, it appears that's not really the case.

Kurbla writes:

Bryan: You say "it is important", but that begs the question, "to whom?"

Building emotions on the way Arnold did is appropriate if one think that violent resolution of disagreement is the best or only possible option. Speaking that way one prepares his side for fight. In the same time he demotivates people from opposite side to switch sides - they stop listen and start preparing for fight as well. If both sides start to repeat thug, thug then some real throat cutting will begin to happen. Using calm and rational tone, one has better chance to attract some moderates from the other side.

Bryan Pick writes:

Kurbla -

You're probably right that name-calling and shouting makes it harder to attract moderates from the other side, though attracting moderates from the other side isn't the only worthwhile objective. Moderates may be terrifically hard to persuade through compromise and few in number, while one's own troops may be waiting for someone who'll fly their flag boldly.

In the meantime, libertarians often use such terms to emphasize that government is force, as banal as the force may be in its execution and as ordinary as the state's officers may appear in their suits and uniforms. When you perceive the threat of overwhelming violence implied by such simple things as regulations and tax collections, and understand just how destructive states can be even when staffed by people of good will, the language that people often use to describe government sounds an awful lot like a string of euphemisms.

And just so I can make the implications of that worldview explicit for you, that means the fight has already started, and we're losing, every day. It's a very one-sided fight.

Second, I've seen a lot of vitriol just in the time that I've been politically aware, and based on my reading of history, the Founding Fathers could throw down with the best of 'em. Real, open throat-cutting between political parties is nevertheless quite rare in American politics.

And third, there's no such thing as a rational tone. A man may make a rational argument passionately, or spew nonsense calmly and steadily.

Gil writes:

Fortunately, when I google "Arnold Kling racist" (without quotes), The first link is to this post, and almost all the others on the first page are outraged by the ridiculous charge.

It's still an appalling charge, but I don't think anybody who does any investigation is likely to conclude that it's true.

Small comfort. But, something.

zen writes:

So you eagerly chide krugman and the NYT for taking your comments out of context, but you make no issue of the National Review adding the line "Barack Obama is destroying my daughter's future." to your transcript?

anonymous writes:

The sad fact is that it really doesn't matter if you are right and if they all lied. Even the suggestion that you were one connected with these allegations is enough to ensure that you will likely not be appointed by any politician for any prominent role. I am sorry, and I am on your side, but I simply think that is the case. It would perhaps even effect university appointments. The whole thing sucks, and I'm sorry you were the victim of a malicious smear campaign.

anon writes:

Let us all write to the NYTimes and insist that they post a correction. They'll probably listen if a lot people make a stink.

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