Paul Krugman was designated as the Manhattan Contrarian Official Worst Economics Writer way back in March 2013. At the time, I said that Krugman "takes everything about economics and turns it around a full 180 degrees." I made particular note of a Krugman column on March 28, 2013 that took the position that "we're cheating our children" by the economic policy of having too little government spending and not taking on enough debt. And I'm 100% sure that he really meant it, and did not realize that it was a self-parody. I have also frequently taken note, for example here, of Krugman's regular advocacy, often contained in endless tirades against what he calls "austerity," that the best government economic policy is to borrow as much money as possible and waste it as fast as possible. Is it really possible that he does not realize that this is a fallacy?
But with Krugman, there's always a new low to be reached. The most recent new low came with his column on Monday October 5, titled "Enemies Of the Sun." The theme here is that the Republican presidential contenders, particularly Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, are ignoramuses because they do not support government direction of investment into "clean" forms of power, mainly solar, and also wind. Why? Take it away, Paul:
[S]olar panels are becoming cheaper and more efficient at a startling rate, reminiscent of the progress in microchips that underlies the information technology revolution. As a result, renewables account for essentially all recent growth in electricity generation capacity in advanced countries.
And how does this apply to Bush and Rubio?
So you might expect people like Mr. Rubio, who says he wants to “unleash our energy potential,” and Mr. Bush, who says he wants to “unleash the Energy Revolution,” to embrace wind and solar as engines of jobs and growth. But they don’t.
But here's the thing, Paul: If solar and wind power are so great, why does any politician need to "embrace" them? You say that they are becoming "cheaper" and "more efficient" at a "startling rate." OK then, but if and when they are actually competitive with other forms of power, the market will then produce them without any need for government to do anything at all, just like the government doesn't have to tell anyone to drill for oil or to "frack" for gas or to mine for coal. It just happens, unless the government somehow puts a stop to it.
But solar and wind power don't just happen. They require big government subsidies, because even after big recent price declines, they are not competitive. Government subsidizing inefficient producers to keep them in business against more efficient producers -- when I studied economics we called that "wealth destruction." Comment please, Paul?
Furthermore, renewables have become major industries in their own right, employing several hundred thousand people in the United States. Employment in the solar industry alone now exceeds the number of coal miners, and solar is adding jobs even as coal declines.
Let me try to get my head around this. Employing lots of people in an uncompetitive industry that could not exist without massive government subsidies is supposed to be a good thing? According to information from the government's Energy Information Agency here, in 2014 the U.S. generated 39% of its electricity from coal and 0.4% from solar. So then if I believe Krugman's employment statistic, the solar industry used more people than the coal industry to generate about 1% the amount of electricity? OK, I admit that there are other people involved in generating electricity from coal than just the miners. Suppose in the whole coal power industry it's four times as many people as in the total solar industry. Then solar would still take 25 times the number of people to generate the same amount of electricity. And Krugman thinks that this is somehow a positive?
Really, if this guy were in my intro economics course, he would get an F. And yet I hear that he has won a Nobel Prize in economics. And this is where the likes of Obama, Sanders, Clinton and Biden get their economics. For myself, I'm sorry, but I don't believe that he is really an economist.