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Robert Murphy is an Austrian economist. He wrote The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism (Regnery Publishing, 2007) and the Human Action Study Guide (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2008), and he works as an economist at the Institute for Energy Research.
Today all Murphy wants is the chance to debate Paul Krugman.
Almost two years ago Murphy created a campaign at ThePoint.com, the website that gave birth to Groupon. He began using the website as a platform to which people could contribute monetary pledges. If a woman pledges, say, $10, she isn’t actually charged anything until the debate takes place. That way no money is wasted.
And here’s the best part: 95 percent of the money collected at ThePoint.com goes directly to charity. In Murphy’s case the money will go to the Fresh Food Program of FoodBankNYC.org, which the New York Times itself has profiled as a nonprofit that “delivers food to nearly all of the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens.”
As of today, generous individuals have pledged about $77,000. This means the NYC-based food bank is set to receive more than $73,000 in donations upon Krugman’s acceptance of Murphy’s debate challenge. If he continues to reject the offer, though, the food bank is left with absolutely nothing.
The situation is a win-win for the Austrian School. There are only two possible outcomes: (1) Krugman approves and Murphy gets the chance to engage in an open and honest debate about economic policy while delivering a huge bag of money to a food bank’s doorstep, or (2) Krugman disapproves and we reveal a redistributionist as hypocritical.
To quote one of Murphy’s animated videos,
Krugman would have to explain to his loyal readers why it wasn’t worth his time to debate for an hour on business cycle theory even though it would mean [thousands of dollars] of right-wing money would then be used to feed hungry New Yorkers.
One such man called into a radio show on which Krugman was a guest in June. The man asked why he’d be ducking Murphy’s request. Krugman responded,
This is not something to be settled by public circuses. … I would say, by the way, that the Austrians have been spectacularly wrong through this crisis. … Why should I dignify that totally-wrong doctrine — that doctrine that’s gotten everything wrong — by giving them a platform?
Yet Krugman didn’t seem to mind giving our ideals a platform when he debated Ron Paul on Bloomberg TV in April. The exchange was seen by nearly 150,000 people on YouTube alone. So, why did Krugman make an exception here? “Because I’m trying to publicize my book,” he wrote.
I’m left wondering why a $73,000 donation to charity isn’t a good enough reason to sit down for a conversation.
After all, Krugman once described Murphy’s analysis on capital theory as “the best exposition I’ve seen yet of the Austrian view that’s sweeping the GOP.” This open acknowledgment that Murphy is a well-trained economist should comfort Krugman’s worries about the debate turning into a ‘public circus.’
At one point Judge Andrew Napolitano said he’d moderate the debate. However, Napolitano is an outspoken and unapologetic libertarian. It would have been difficult to convince Krugman to debate in front of a moderator who believes that “all taxation is theft.” Murphy then extended an olive branch by choosing a moderator who supported Obamacare and thought the stimulus package was too small: Ezra Klein, a columnist at the Washington Post.
With Klein in the center seat, no one will feel backed into a corner.
Krugman wrote of the Tea Party in 2009,
They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.
Well… here we are, Krugman. Standing naked before you — without our right-wing billionaires and without Fox News — we modestly ask you to accept a debate with Robert Murphy. Didn’t you say just the other day that the "real question" in a political economy is not whether to redistribute but how much to redistribute? How much of your own time are you willing to spend in order to feed the needy?
All we’re asking is one hour.
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