Does Paul Krugman Really Want to Tell Us Voters Make Better Choices When They Don’t Know the Truth?

Paul Krugman thinks the election was hacked. He says Hillary Clinton would have won the electoral votes except for two factors:

I’m talking about the obvious effect of two factors on voting: the steady drumbeat of Russia-contrived leaks about Democrats, and only Democrats, and the dramatic, totally unjustified last-minute intervention by the F.B.I. . .

Does anyone really doubt that these factors moved swing-state ballots by at least 1 percent? If they did, they made the difference in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and therefore handed Mr. Trump the election, even though he received almost three million fewer total votes. Yes, the election was hacked.

He may very well be right, but what is the implication?

Krugman wants us to focus on the fact that the people who did the hacking were “bad guys.” Vladimir Putin is a devious authoritarian who arguably had no business trying to tilt the US election to his favored candidate. The FBI may really “ have become a highly partisan institution, with distinct alt-right sympathies” (although I find that characterization a bit of an overstatement).

However, we should not allow the fact that “bad guys did it” to distract our focus from the fact that the material released by Russian hackers and the FBI was true.

Yes, Clinton really did have a private email server. By her own admision, at a minimum, that displayed bad judgement. It also seems to have been at least a technical violation of State Department rules, even if the FBI was right to recommend against criminal prosecution. The server, and handling of the issue, probably really did turn off some voters.

Yes, the DNC, as revealed by Wikileaks, really did put its thumb on the scale in the primaries, despite its professed neutrality. Without the DNC’s covert aid, or with more timely disclosure, , a fair primary process might well have resulted in the nomination of Bernie Sanders.

Yes, Clinton’s paid speeches to banks really did contain material that many undecided primary voters would have found offensive, had it come out earlier in the year — her embrace of free trade and open borders, her offer to give Wall Street executives a larger role in crafting regulations, her casual willingness to say one thing behind closed doors and another in public.

None of this was false news. It was true news. Yes, it would have been more palatable, I agree, if it had been revealed by some earnest, All-American whistle blower within the DNC or the Clinton campaign, but that does not change the fact that the contents of the material released was true.

The bottom line: When Krugman says that Clinton would have won the presidency of only the election had not been hacked, isn’t that exactly the same as to say that voters would have made a better choice if they had known less? Or to put in another way, that she would have won if only she could have kept the truth from voters?

If it is, then the blame for Clinton’s defeat lies with the accurate content of the message, no matter how much effort Krugman makes to shift our focus to the character of the messengers.

Written by

Economist, Senior Fellow at Niskanen Center, Yale Ph.D. Interests include environment, health care policy, social safety net, economic freedom.

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