I was watching economists Kenneth Rogoff and Paul Krugman being interviewed by Fareed Xakaria on the CNN show “Fareed Zakaria GPS” in the late morning on Sunday, August 14, 2011. I started laughing when I heard Krugman suggest that a perfectly acceptable Keynesian solution to the economic crisis would be for scientists to pretend that space aliens were invading earth. (We then would pull together and get everyone employed.)
What we actually need is less government deception and less government intervention, so that entrepreneurs can go back to creating new products, new businesses, and new jobs.
Here is a transcript of the relevant part of the interview:
Ken Rogoff: Infrastructure spending, if it were well-spent, that’s great. I’m all for that. I’d borrow for that, assuming we’re not paying Boston Big Dig kind of prices for the infrastructure.
Fareed Zakaria: But even if you were, wouldn’t John Maynard Keynes say that if you could employ people to dig a ditch and then fill it up again, that’s fine, they’re being productively employed, they’ll pay taxes, so maybe Boston’s Big Dig was just fine after all.
Paul Krugman: Think about World War II, right? That was actually negative social product spending, and yet it brought us out.
I mean, probably because you want to put these things together, if we say, “Look, we could use some inflation.” Ken and I are both saying that, which is, of course, anathema to a lot of people in Washington but is, in fact, what basic logic says.
It’s very hard to get inflation in a depressed economy. But if you had a program of government spending plus an expansionary policy by the Fed, you could get that. So, if you think about using all of these things together, you could accomplish a great deal.
If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. And then if we discovered, oops, we made a mistake, there aren’t any aliens, we’d be better –
Ken Rogoff: And we need Orson Welles, is what you’re saying.
Paul Krugman: No, there was a Twilight Zone episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time…we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.
Source of embedded clip and transcipt: “GPS this Sunday: Krugman calls for space aliens to fix U.S. economy?” posted August 12, 2011, 2:09 PM; aired Sunday, August 14, 2011. URL: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/12/gps-this-sunday-krugman-calls-for-space-aliens-to-fix-u-s-economy/
(Note: bold in original; the ellipsis in the final paragraph is in the original CNN transcript. Here is a transcipt of the final paragraph without the ellipsis: “KRUGMAN: No, there was a “Twilight Zone” episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time, we don’t need it, we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.” The source of this transcript is the News Busters blog at:
(Note: Commenting on the CNN blog entry, “Wild Bill” suggested that the source for Krugman’s policy advice was not an episode in the “Twilight Zone” series, as Krugman had said, but the “Architects of Fear” episode that aired in 1963 on the “Outer Limits” series. In spite of this error, “Wild Bill” maintains that the “dude is still a flippin’ genius.”)