The Conscience of a Liberal – Paul Krugman

What follows are a series of quotes taken from my recent reading of Paul Kruman’s 2007 work on Liberal/ Progressivism in modern US democracy. The quotes speak for themselves but your thoughts and comments are welcome either as part of this post or by emailing me directly at


 Money is the glue of movement conservatism, which is largely financed by a handful of extremely wealthy individuals and a number of major corporations, all of whom stand to gain from increased inequality, an end to progressive taxation, and a rollback of the welfare state – in short, from a reversal of the New Deal.  – Paul Krugman; The Conscience of a Liberal

 Middle-class societies don’t emerge automatically as an economy matures, they have to be created through political action.  Nothing in the data we have for the early twentieth century suggests that America was evolving spontaneously into the relatively equal society I grew up in.  It took FDR and the New Deal to bring that society into being. – Paul Krugman; The Conscience of a Liberal

Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history.  There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things.  Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas.  Their number is negligible and they are stupid. – Dwight Eisenhower

Medieval theologians debated how many angels could fit on the head of a pin.  Modern economists debate whether the American median income has risen or fallen since the early 1970s.  What’s really telling is the fact that we’re even having this debate.  America is a far more productive and hence far richer country than it was a generation ago.  The value of the output an average worker produces in an hour, even after you adjust for inflation, has risen almost 50 percent since 1973.  Yet the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small minority has proceeded so rapidly that we’re not sure whether the typical American has gained anything from rising productivity.  Paul Krugman; The Conscience of a Liberal

Americans are worried about an economy that leaves most of them behind, even in supposedly good times.  They’ve become less susceptible to the politics of distraction – appeals to racial and social intolerance, fear-mongering on national security.  For all these reasons it seems probable that movement conservatism’s moment has passed.  – Paul Krugman; The Conscience of a Liberal

One of the seeming paradoxes of America in the early twenty-first century is that those of us who call ourselves liberal are, in an important sense, conservative, while those who call themselves conservative are for the most part deeply radical.  Liberals want to restore the middle-class society I grew up in; those who call themselves conservative want to take us back to the Gilded Age, undoing a century of history.  Liberals defend longstanding institutions like Social Security and Medicare; those who call themselves conservative want to privatize or undermine those institutions.  Liberals want to honor our democratic principles and the rule of law; those who call themselves conservative want the president to have dictatorial powers and have applauded the Bush administration as it imprisons people without charges and subjects them to torture. – Paul Krugman; The Conscience of a Liberal

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