Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Paul Krugman Takes a Full-Time Position To Study Inequality

 Paul Krugman is moving from Princeton to City University of New York to an inequality institute. Here is his announcement in his column "The Conscience of a Liberal":  

So, why am I doing this? It is in no sense a commentary on Princeton, which has been a wonderful place for me professionally and personally. In particular, I can’t praise Princeton’s intellectual quality enough: it has been a great honor to be affiliated with a superb public policy school and an equally superb economics department.

Instead, my move reflects some hard thinking about how I can best make use of my time....

 ... the answer seemed clear: more and more of my work has focused on issues of income inequality, and nobody does more important work producing the hard data on which all of this work relies than the Luxembourg Income Study, directed by Janet Gornick, professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center of CUNY. So I approached Janet about the possibility of some kind of affiliation with LIS that would give me both an office and the ability to interact with the excellent group LIS has assembled in New York.

"So why am I doing this?" Well, a salary of $225,000/year combined with a courseload of one seminar per year (after the first year's zero teaching) might have something to do with it. He's worth it on the market, of course, but conservatives are having a lot of fun with the story of the former Enron consultant's latest career move. 

   I don't know whether this is hypocritical, because I don't know details of what Professor Krugman thinks about income inequality.  If  his   position is the common one of liberal economists that   inequality in income is unjust but should be tolerated because human nature requires monetary incentives to encourage effor ​, then he should not himself engage in injustice, even if his ideal policy position would still allow other, selfish, people to earn high salaries so as to encourage them to work harder.  I'd make an exception if he donates most of his income to charity, but I wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt on that.   

    Am I correct, though? Is it hypocritical for someone who thinks income inequality is unjust to accept more than the  pay of the average American?     (As a Christian, I am troubled about my own high salary, but  the Christian has no objections to inequality per se, only to  love of money and poor use of it. We can leave that discussion for another day.)  Note that this moral question is different from the policy question. There is no hypocrisy in thinking that unequal income leads to poor social outcomes  but  accepting a high salary oneself, so long as you don't think there is any injustice involved, just as there is no hypocrisy in opposing tax breaks while taking advantage of them so long as they still exist.

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