Paul Krugman Fails to Make a Mistake

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Paul Krugman is a target for conservatives everywhere, and for that reason he’s careful with his facts.¹ But National Review’s Kevin Williamson thinks he’s finally caught Krugman in an error:

Professor Krugman argues, for the obvious reason that basing government decisions on falsehoods is bound to lead to bad results: “Listening to a garrulous old guy spout nonsense is annoying in the best of circumstances. But when this particular old guy controls the world’s largest military, nukes included, it’s downright scary.”

I wouldn’t call Professor Krugman a garrulous old guy who spouts nonsense — he is only 65 years old — but, for the record, with 1,347,300 active-duty troops, the United States does not have the world’s largest military. It is No. 3. I point that out only because Professor Krugman as a columnist cannot lean very hard on wit or charm and must therefore attend carefully to the details.

Conservatives really, really want to catch Krugman in an error, don’t they? I think it’s obvious that Krugman is talking here about military spending, in which the US is indeed the world leader. How else could you do it? Sure, China has more troops, but we have ten times more carrier groups. India has more troops than us too, but we have ten times more aircraft. Without bothering to check, I’m going to say that we also have more submarines, more cruise missiles, more stealth bombers, and more ICBMs than both countries put together.

I dunno. How would you define “largest” military? Troops alone seems like a bad metric, doesn’t it?

UPDATE: Williamson emails to say that his piece was meant as a joke. I didn’t pick up on that.

¹I assume he would be regardless, but this is just extra motivation.

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Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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