Paul Krugman Fails to Make a Mistake

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

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.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend