Should-Read: Paul Krugman: Unicorns of the Intellectual Right: “Economics… a field with a relatively strong conservative presence…. [But] trying to find influential conservative economic intellectuals is basically a hopeless task…
…While there are many conservative economists with appointments at top universities, publications in top journals, and so on, they have no influence on conservative policymaking. What the right wants are charlatans and cranks, in (conservative) Greg Mankiw’s famous phrase. If they use actual economists, they use them the way a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination. The appointment of Larry Kudlow to head the National Economic Council epitomizes the phenomenon…. Kudlow… is basically a TV personality, whose shtick is preaching the magic of tax cuts, and nothing–not the Kansas debacle, not the Clinton boom, not the strong job creation that followed Obama’s 2013 tax hike–will change his mind. And it’s not just that he’s incurious and inflexible: selling snake oil is his business model, and he can’t change without losing everything. And that’s the kind of guy Republicans want…. If you get a conservative economist who isn’t a charlatan and crank, you are more or less by definition getting someone with no influence on policymakers. But that’s not the only problem….
Conservative economic thought is… [also] in an advanced state of both intellectual and moral decadence…. I’ve written a lot about the intellectual decadence…. Anti-Keynesians refused to reconsider their views when their own models failed the reality test while Keynesian models, with some modification, performed pretty well. By the time the Great Recession struck, the right-leaning side of the profession had entered a Dark Age, having retrogressed to the point where famous economists trotted out 30s-era fallacies as deep insights….
There has been a moral collapse–a willingness to put political loyalty over professional standards. We saw that most recently in the way leading conservative economists raced to endorse ludicrous claims for the efficacy of the Trump tax cuts, then tried to climb down without admitting what they had done. We saw it in the false claims that Obama had presided over a massive expansion of government programs and refusal to admit that he hadn’t, the warnings that Fed policy would cause huge inflation followed by refusal to admit having been wrong, and on and on…. I suspect… it’s… a desperate attempt to retain some influence on a party that prefers the likes of Kudlow or Stephen Moore. People like John Taylor just keep hoping that if they toe the party line enough, they can still get on the inside. But so far this keeps not happening…. And no, you don’t see the same thing on the other side….
Am I saying that there are no conservative economists who have maintained their principles? Not at all. But they have no influence, zero, on GOP thinking. So in economics, a news organization trying to represent conservative thought either has to publish people with no constituency or go with the charlatans who actually matter. And I think that’s true across the board. The left has genuine public intellectuals with actual ideas and at least some real influence; the right does not. News organizations don’t seem to have figured out how to deal with this reality, except by pretending that it doesn’t exist. And that’s why we keep having these Williamson-like debacles.