New York Times columnist Paul Krugman took his cue from "South Park" on Monday, outlining a plan to fight "derp," which in economic circles functions as a shorthand for "people who keep saying the same thing no matter how much evidence accumulates that it's completely wrong."
"Inflation derp," he noted, "has become more of less a required position among Republicans," because conservative ideology demands of adherence the belief that any expansion of the government "must lead to disaster." The fact that this has not proven to be true is immaterial, because "derp" is, at its essence, "basically political."
A "telltale sign of derp," Krugman argued, is an inflexibility in how politicians address novel economic situation, "like the assertion that slashing tax rates on the wealthy, which you advocate all the time, just so happens to also be the perfect response to a financial crisis nobody expected." The economist is, however, careful to add that
derp isn’t destiny. But how can you -- whether you’re a pundit, a policy maker, or just a concerned citizen -- protect yourself against derpitude? The first line of defense, I’d argue, is to always be suspicious of people telling you what you want to hear.
Thus, if you’re a conservative opposed to a stronger safety net, you should be extra skeptical about claims that health reform is about to crash and burn, especially coming from people who made the same prediction last year and the year before (Obamacare derp runs almost as deep as inflation derp).
But if you’re a liberal who believes that we should reduce inequality, you should similarly be cautious about studies purporting to show that inequality is responsible for many of our economic ills, from slow growth to financial instability. Those studies might be correct -- the fact is that there’s less derp on America’s left than there is on the right — but you nonetheless need to fight the temptation to let political convenience dictate your beliefs.
Fighting the derp can be hard, not least because it can upset friends who want to be reassured in their beliefs. But you should do it anyway: it’s your civic duty.