, he said,
World War II is the great natural experiment in the effects of large increases in government spending, and as such has always served as an important positive example for those of us who favor an activist approach to a depressed economy.
Understandably, many interpreted this to mean that Krugman is in favor of war, just as John Dewey was, in his "The Social Possibilities of War", where Dewey argued that WWI offered the great opportunity to expand the Progressive socialization of America. Krugman is now trying to backtrack, and in Evil Me, he now claims that he never wanted war.
A friend of mine is insisting that Krugman really only supports government spending per se, and that war was merely a hypothetical illustration, not meant to be taken seriously. I do not buy it. I said to him:
What if someone said publicly, "Killing all the elderly people would save us money on healthcare. Now, I don't want to actually kill them, but I just want to point out that it would improve the economy." What do you think would happen? And what do you think that candidate would deserve?
If I (as a libertarian) want to advertise the principle of cutting spending, I will not try to illustrate it by making a hypothetical suggestion of exterminating the elderly, and then saying, "But note, I am not in favor of killing the elderly. I just want to cut spending, and I chose this as a hypothetical illustration." So too, if you want to advertise the principle of government spending being good, it's rather idiotic to choose war as your example. What if Krugman had said, "Building gas chambers and railways to concentration camps is a good way to boost employment." That would be an idiotic example if all he wanted to do was promote government spending per se. That's why Keynes spoke of digging ditches, not building concentration camps. So if Krugman merely wanted to promote spending per se, he could have chosen a more benign example, just as, if I want to promote cutting spending, I can find a more benign example than killing the elderly. Krugman's promoting war as a hypothetical example not to be taken seriously, is the same as if he promoted building concentration camps as a hypothetical example not to be taken seriously. In other words, I don't buy it. All evidence points to his actually, truly wanting war.
I forget where, but I remember someone taking Jesus's parable of the faithful servant (investing funds to accrue interest) in Matthew 25 (where he says that faithful service of God is like being a faithful investor of someone else's entrusted money) and saying that if something is used in a parable (here, investment) to promote the "real" thing of interest (here, spiritual growth and worship of God), then the thing itself being used (investment) must itself be good. That is, if you compare worship of God to investment of money, then implicitly, one is saying that investment must be good. You do not analogize a good thing to a bad thing. So too here: if Krugman is comparing what he wants the government to do, to war, then he must therefore like war. War may not be the thing he is driving at really, just as Jesus was not driving at sound investment strategies. But just as Jesus's comparison of his target, namely spirituality and religion, to investment, implies that investment itself must be good too, so too, Krugman's illustraing spending in general with war, implies that he thinks war itself is good.
If Krugman thinks he can promote government spending in wartime without praising war, then fine, I invite him to promote government spending on concentration camps and gas chambers without praising genocide.