The Unofficial Paul Krugman Web Page

Paul Krugman is a professor of economics at MIT

whose books include The Accidental Theorist: And

Other Dispatches From the Dismal Science (click here

to buy the book) and The Age of Diminished

Expectations: U.S. Economic Policy in the 1990s (click

here to buy the book). Kathleen M. Sullivan is Stanley

Morrison Professor at Stanford Law School, where she

teaches constitutional law. In September she will

become the dean of Stanford Law School.

From: Paul Krugman

To: Kathleen M. Sullivan

Subject: Europe's Frankenstein Monster

Posted: Monday, March 29, 1999, at 7:24 a.m. PT

Hi Kathleen

Good morning! I was up bright and early reading the papers

today--in fact, extremely early, since I got back from Ireland

yesterday and am still mainly on Irish time. I was also quite

anxious to take a look at American papers--where I was

you could only get Irish papers, and the funny thing is that

those papers mainly focus on--would you believe it?--Irish

news. Still, the headlines there and here were pretty much

the same: For the time being the news is dominated by the

war in Yugoslavia. For our chat the timing leaves something

to be desired, since I don't claim to know anything more

about that conflict than the next person.

There is one somewhat interesting contrast between the way

the war is covered there and here, however. In Ireland and

in England--there were UK papers available on the flight

back home--there is a significant amount of old-leftist-type

commentary, denouncing U.S. imperialism, although even

the most die-hard advocates of that view seem a bit

uncomfortable about defending the right of small nations to

kill off their ethnic minorities.

For what it is worth, my own sense is that the true

immorality of U.S. policy here is the implicit rate of

exchange we have established between American and

Kosovar lives. We are, to our credit, willing to spend a lot

of money in an effort to prevent genocide. But we are very

unwilling to place even a few hundred American lives at

risk--say, by sending aircraft in direct, low-level attacks on

the Serbian forces in Kosovo--even if that might save tens

of thousands of civilians. I don't blame the administration,

which is responding to a political reality; but it is worth

pointing out that we are in effect saying that one American is

worth hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Kosovars.

Otherwise, not much for me to react to. I actually get two

papers delivered: the New York Times and the Financial

Times. The reason for taking the latter is both for a bit more

economic news and to get more of a global perspective;

even the NYT shares the fundamental American insularity,

the sense that the rest of the world basically matters only to

the extent that it affects us directly. Anyway, the FT had a

story about how even the International Monetary Fund is

now pleading with the European Central Bank to cut interest

rates. I am increasingly convinced that there is a developing

drama there: In its drive to create a common currency,

Europe has created a Frankenstein monster--an institution

so anxious to prove its toughness and independence that it

will not loosen up no matter how strong the case for


Anyway, time to deal with 10 days' backlog of mail and




From: Kathleen M. Sullivan

To: Paul Krugman

Subject: Left, Right, Left

Posted: Monday, March 29, 1999, at 10:50 a.m. PT

Hi Paul,

I envy you the Ireland trip, though Stanford too is

pretty nice in the springtime, as you well

remember. Uncannily nice, given that half a world

away, NATO continues the aerial bombardment

of Yugoslavia and refugees continue to stream out

of Kosovo in tractors and wheelbarrows,

according to the sad color photos in this morning's

New York Times. The politics of the bombing

here in the United States are quite interesting. As

you note, there is some old-fashioned left

anti-imperialism rhetoric in the European papers,

and the Times today covers anti-American

protests in various cities throughout the world.

But has anyone taken to the streets in protest the

bombing in the United States? No pictures or

stories in the Times today, though it covers

student protests on campuses from Duke to

Michigan against the labor conditions of producers

of college apparel (no sweatshirts from

sweatshops), and continues to cover black

leadership and celebrity protests against the

conduct of the New York City police in the Diallo

shooting. What's going on?

One possibility is left/right ideological drift on the

issue of intervention abroad. This is nicely framed

by a recent article by Charles Krauthammer in the

New Republic and yesterday's book excerpt by

Tom Friedman in Sunday's New York Times

Magazine . Krauthammer's piece is a manifesto

for the new-right isolationism: Absent a

supervening global power, international relations is

a Hobbesian war of all against all, and the only

governing principle for a nation-state should be

self-interest. He denounces the Clinton

administration for naive belief in international

institutions and the power of legal treaties to

constrain behavior, and dismisses humanitarian

empathy and the protection of human rights as

bases for the use of force. Friedman, on the other

hand, makes the case for internationalism,

including a case for preventing "innocent civilians

[from] being slaughtered in Europe" if it can be

done at "reasonable cost," although he hadn't

factored the current air war into that equation at

press time.

Hence the curious absence of war protestors:

Liberals are now pro-intervention and

conservative pacifists are unlikely to take to the

streets (it's not their style). Of course, it's not a

simple left/right matter. Friedman usefully points

out that there are, on international economic

issues, both left and right isolationists (Gephardt

and Perot) and both left and right globalists

(Clinton and Gingrich). Same goes for use of

force, natch. But at least to some extent, both

sides are caught out of role here.

Apart from Yugoslavia (apart from that, Mrs.

Lincoln ...), we might talk about various other

recent stories: a Michigan jury's first conviction of

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, suggesting that many draw a

strong intuitive distinction between assisted suicide

(his previous four acquittals or mistrials) and

active euthanasia (this case of an injection

broadcast on CBS); today's Dale Maharidge

Op-Ed in the New York Times pointing out that

the California population may already be less than

a majority white; or today's Safire column urging

liberals to oppose state-run lotteries as regressive

taxation schemes (imagine if all those SuperLotto

players had invested their money in the stock

market instead ... )

Hope you're catching up on your messages and

have dodged the Melissa e-mail virus.

All best,



From: Paul Krugman

To: Kathleen M. Sullivan

Subject: Beyond Realpolitick

Posted: Monday, March 29, 1999, at 1:45 p.m. PT


Ireland was actually the second leg of the trip, after

Morocco--and what a contrast: from heat and dust (and the

thoroughly--and rather horrifyingly--medieval city of Fez) to

cool drizzle and green fields. And I must say that the

prosperity and peace of a place like modern Ireland gives

even a cynic like myself a sort of emotional lift: It shows that

a country can transcend a terrible history, that the human

condition really can improve. On the other hand, the papers

there were full of dire stories about the potential breakdown

of the Northern Ireland peace process, which has barely

rated a mention here (but see this CNN story).

Anyway, back to U.S. news. As I read your remarks about

how Kosovo reverses the usual left/right roles on

intervention, I found myself wondering what Noam

Chomsky--who epitomized the left-wing view that all bad

things are the result of Western intervention--is saying now.

Well, I couldn't find anything about the current crisis, but

thanks to the miracle of search engine technology I did find

some remarks about Bosnia, which are pathetic but

revealing: First he tries to blame it all on the Western Right,

then suddenly gets all judicious and practical. Here's the


The truth, I think, is that the very success of America--our

emergence as the world's overwhelming

superpower--creates a set of moral dilemmas for the left.

(The Right--which at a fundamental level believes that man is

not his brother's keeper--does not suffer to the same

degree). There are now very few clear and present dangers

to the United States itself; for the most part Realpolitik

does not compel us to intervene in other countries' affairs.

On the other hand, there is a great deal of evil in the world,

and the United States often could do much to limit the

damage. Doesn't this mean that we have a moral obligation

to do so? If you believe that Americans should be willing to

pay higher prices in order to ensure that sweatshop workers

in Indonesia are paid better (which is not entirely clear--see

my old Slate column "In Praise of Cheap Labor "), how can

you deny that we have a moral responsibility to prevent

genocide when we can? Not to put too fine a point on it: A

few thousand Marines could probably have saved 800,000

lives in Rwanda--but we did nothing. When I see college

students get worked up over the wages Nike pays in

Southeast Asia, I can't help but feel that they have chosen a

remarkably safe target.

Of course, I don't want to end up sounding like a standard

right-winger either--I'm an equal-opportunity curmudgeon,

with some nasty things to say about the developing

campaign of Bush the Younger. But let me save that for a

later missive.


From: Kathleen M. Sullivan

To: Paul Krugman

Subject: The Economy of Moral Outrage

Posted: Monday, March 29, 1999, at 3:52 p.m. PT


My trips to Ireland have always left me feeling that its

"terrible beauty" was a record of political misfortune; the

arable land at the center gently dotted with Anglo palazzos

while the Celts were driven to eke out a living on the

hardscrabble edges of the sea. The economic prosperity the

republic is now experiencing is wonderful if destabilizing of

old cultural norms--and potentially of old tribal enmities.

You're certainly right that expressed outrage often bears

little relationship to real cost-benefit calculations. Why the

policy and press attention to Kosovo and not Rwanda?

Here the possible culprits are racially selective sympathy and

indifference on the part of the polity, selectivity on the part

of the media and press (which may itself reflect the racial

selectivity of the audience), and allegorical and historical

parallels to the horrors of World Wars I and II. There's also

a kind of slippage between humanitarian and self-interest

arguments: The President's foreign policy address a few

weeks before the bombing began stressed that if we didn't

stop the killing in Yugoslavia now (humanitarian), our

economic interests in a peaceful and stable Europe would be

hurt later (self-interest).

Why apparel sweatshops? It can't just be that labor is

resurgent on campus; else more would be happening on

behalf of graduate student unions and farm workers. Maybe

it's a kind of socially beneficial narcissism: Students can be

galvanized most readily by issues that literally touch and

concern them, like the insignia-emblazoned clothes they

wear. Again, some selective sympathy and indifference: The

plight of women and children in physically appalling labor

conditions has visceral appeal.

Related to these issues is the problem of inference from

anecdote. The Diallo shooting in New York has lowered the

political popularity of the entire Giuliani quality-of-life

program, even though even liberals have conceded over the

last several years, sotto voce of course, that they're happier

with less crime, the new Times Square, the cordoned

homeless population, and liberation from squeegee men.

How can one incident, however shocking or horrific, have

such a broadly destabilizing effect on public opinion? The

reverse is also true; public opinion can rally to a single

sympathetic incident that then consumes a disproportionate

share of public resources.

Assuming there is an economy of moral outrage, and that

too much horror produces fatigue and withdrawal of

attention from public affairs, perhaps selective attention is

the best one can hope for.


From: Paul Krugman

To: Kathleen M. Sullivan

Subject: Contentless Contentedness

Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 1999, at 8:09 a.m. PT


I've been mulling over your thoughts about the selectivity of

moral outrage, and I think you're mostly but not entirely right.

Certainly the public, and even the chattering classes, is

subject to the tyranny of the anecdote--in fact, sometimes

anecdotes that aren't even true can be decisive in shaping

public opinion. (Remember Ronald Reagan and his welfare

queens driving Cadillacs?) It's also true that the TV pictures

make a big difference: One reason why Bosnia and Kosovo

register far more than Rwanda did is that it is so much easier

to get news crews in and put the images up on the screen.

But it's also true that the anecdotes have power only if they

play into some pre-existing disposition. I suspect that the

Diallo case would not carry the resonance it does if lots of

people weren't already feeling ready to condemn Giuliani's

New York. The quality of life improvements are, as you say,

very real; maybe the point is that precisely because people

are no longer so afraid of crime, no longer feeling so

menaced, they are ready to worry about justice and due

process again. If the old line was that a conservative was a

liberal who has been mugged, maybe the undeniable fact that

lots fewer people are getting mugged is what makes it

possible for liberal sentiments to make a modest comeback.

What I don't quite agree with, however, is the idea--which I

think was implicit in your remarks--that students and so on

are at the limits of their capacity for outrage, and therefore

must choose a few easy targets. Surely the truth is that there

is very little outrage out there--never in my life have I seen an

America so content, so generally pleased with itself. (Dow

10,000!) And yet there is a downside to this

fat-and-happiness: a sort of pervasive silliness of life, a lack

of grand issues to give life meaning. Where are the causes

that can make people, especially young people, feel that they

are part of something larger than themselves?

I guess what I'm saying is that there are some resemblances

between the environment today and America in the 1960s,

say around the time of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement

that started the whole thing. Now as then you have

unprecedented affluence combined with a certain sense of

spiritual and political hollowness, a feeling that there has to be

something more to life, which creates fertile ground for


The big difference, of course, is that history has discredited

so many ideals. Anarchy? Free love? Socialism? Revolution?

Been there, done that, and seen the consequences. Maybe

that's why there is almost a sense of relief that Giuliani has

actually done something we can in good conscience be

outraged about.



From: Kathleen M. Sullivan

To: Paul Krugman

Subject: What's the Big Idea?

Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 1999, at 11:58 a.m. PT

Hi Paul,

You're quite right that in this long bullish moment, there's a

certain hollowness and lack of commitment to big ideas and

grand movements--at least among liberals! For example, the

vice president's livability agenda picks up where many of the

president's popular small initiatives (community police, smaller

classes) leave off. But let's not forget that we've heard a lot of

large ideas in recent years from conservatives, and that some

of them have had real political or legal influence.

Take anti-federalism for one--or the idea that the balance of

power ought to be shifted away from Washington and toward

the states. Sixty-some years after the New Deal, the

Supreme Court has taken some serious cuts at Congress's

authority to enact federal laws that were once taken for

granted. It struck down a federal no-guns-in-schools law as

too unrelated to commerce, and struck down the Religious

Freedom Restoration Act as too unrelated to enforcing

anybody's real religious-freedom rights against the states. Just

recently, the Fourth Circuit--the federal appeals court for

Maryland, the Virginias, and the Carolinas--invalidated the

Violence Against Women Act, which allows people to bring

federal lawsuits for damages for gender-motivated violence.

The court held that the law neither governed interstate

commerce nor enforced anybody's civil rights against the

states. There's a good chance the Supreme Court will affirm.

Or consider the anti-affirmative-action movement, which

trades on the rhetoric of color-blindness it has plucked

selectively from the work of the civil rights movement itself.

California's popularly enacted Proposition 209 illustrates the

political potency of this movement; lawsuits against racial

preferences in admissions to the public law schools at Texas,

Michigan, and Washington illustrate its legal persistence.

Again, big idea, activist movement. (Of course, it's an idea

that ignores that the civil rights movement was devoted to

ending a socially entrenched system of racial hierarchy and

subordination--something affirmative action cannot credibly

be thought to create.)

So, liberals and progressives are often cast in the role of

rear-guard defenders of a New Deal or New Society status

quo. No wonder the arguments are often small-bore or

pragmatic. Bowen and Bok's recent magisterial defense of

racial diversity in university admissions, for example,

emphasizes that it makes society work better, not that it is the

embodiment of a grand idea.

Now, let's not forget that conservative grand ideas can go

down in flames, too. The Contract With America is not in

much better shape right now than the Berkeley Free Speech

Movement. (Term limits? Balanced-budget amendment?

Stopping those flag-burners? Newt Gingrich?). But I'm

curious what you think might spark grander ideas to galvanize

the left, other than an ambient sense of spiritual hollowness

amid affluence.



From: Paul Krugman

To: Kathleen M. Sullivan

Subject: Fiddling at the Margin

Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 1999, at 1:05 p.m. PT


"I'm curious," you wrote, "what you think might spark grander

ideas to galvanize the left, other than an ambient sense of

spiritual hollowness amid affluence." Good question--one for

which I have no answer. That is, of course, partly an

occupational hazard: It is really hard to put the words

"grandeur" or "idealism" in the same sentence as the word

"economist," except ironically. Uninspiring stuff is my

business. (To be honest, I don't personally find the stuff

uninspiring. One can find not only aesthetic pleasure but even

a sense of mission in the effort to make sense of economic

affairs: The Asian financial crisis is a terrible thing, but the

effort to understand it--and to prevent a recurrence--is giving

rise to some very exciting research, some of which may save

the world. But these are essentially technical rather than moral

issues, and therefore compelling only to technicians like


So is my sense that there aren't any grand ideas merely a

reflection of my own narrowness? I don't think so. America is

prosperous and at peace, its society imperfect in many ways

but not grossly unjust or corrupt; unless we are prepared to

take on the problems of less fortunate nations--and Kosovo

aside we aren't--there are no compelling causes. That is not

to say that I wish things were otherwise--you wouldn't want

to conjure up a powerful external enemy in order to

experience the moral equivalent of World War II, or

re-create institutionalized racism in order to be able to have a

second civil rights movement--but it does mean that there is a

smallness and triviality about our current political life.

Incidentally, I don't think that the right is doing any better. As

you said, the grand ideas have gone down in flames.

Americans don't want a radically smaller government, or a

return to 1950s morality. So the right, too, is at best fiddling

at the margin. Indeed, there is something almost pitiful about

the big-idea conservatives of yesteryear--whether it is the

religious right trying to convince the public that we live in an

age of dreadful immorality, or old supply-siders trying to

remind people that the long expansion under Reagan (who?

Don't you mean Clinton?) proves that cuts in income taxes

are what America needs today.

What would change all this? Probably only really bad news.

If the United States boom should turn into a Japanese-style

bust--which is a possibility not to be dismissed--some of the

big issues would be back on the table. That's not either

wishful thinking or a prediction, by the way--just an



From: Kathleen M. Sullivan

To: Paul Krugman

Subject: Court-Assisted Politics

Posted: Tuesday, March 30, 1999, at 3:33 p.m. PT


So, life imitates economics: All important debates are at the

margin. Same goes for constitutional rights law, as two stories

in today's papers remind us. A New York Times front-page

story has advocates of assisted suicide spinning the conviction

of Dr. Jack Kevorkian for murder in Michigan as actually

helpful to their cause. How? Because assisted suicide, which

keeps final control of the decision to die literally in the

patient's hands, can be favorably distinguished from a lethal

injection by a doctor as in the Kevorkian case.

There's something to this, as the more the power rests in

someone other than the patient, the more danger there is of

mistake, coercion, or abuse. (See Ian McEwan's recent novel

Amsterdam for high satire on this point.) There is also the

problem of damage to the image of the doctor as healer if he

comes at you with that final syringe. The Supreme Court has

done similar line-drawing at another margin in the right-to-die

debate: It has said that we have some kind of right to remove

unwanted life support, rooted in the common-law notion that

we can protect our bodies from battery, but that we do not

have any such right to have a doctor supply a lethal dose of

medication. (Only Oregon at the moment guarantees such a

right for the terminally ill.) Framed as an issue of private

choice about when to accelerate death, all of these scenarios

look the same, and the technique that's used seems beside the

point. But the strong intuition reflected in the Kevorkian

article and the cautious common-law constitutionalism of the

court both suggest that factual variation at the margin makes

all the difference.

In a second story revolving around legal analogies, the

Supreme Court has just agreed to decide whether

conservative Christian students at a public university have a

First Amendment right not to pay a public university a

mandatory student activity fee to the extent it supports

environmental, feminist, or gay-rights student groups. Now,

none of us has a conscientious-objection right not to pay our

taxes, even to the extent they pay for things we think

ideological anathema. We even have to pay taxes to keep the

streets and parks open for parades and demonstrations we

abhor. So why do these students think they have a case?

Because for decades the Supreme Court has held that folks

may not be forced to support union political activities or

bar-association political activities that stick in their craws,

even if they can be made to pay such organizations the costs

of collective bargaining or lawyer discipline. So the legal issue

is whether student activities at a public university are more

like parades in the park or the ideological frolic and detour of

an organization that's only entitled to exact fees for its central

mission. No student could claim a rebate for the portion of

tuition that went to support a class on evolution or civil rights

law he or she found offensive, so the university's best bet is to

argue that student activities are an extension of the university's

educational mission.

Politically, of course, the issue in the student-fee case is

whether conservative activists will be able to shut down

liberal activists on campus by making their organizations too

expensive as an accounting matter. Which brings us back to

our exchange about sweatshop demonstrations, and a chance

to see what tomorrow's news may bring.


From: Paul Krugman

To: Kathleen M. Sullivan

Subject: E Pluribus Euro

Posted: Thursday, April 1, 1999, at 9:57 a.m. PT


The answer to your chicken-and-egg question is probably,

alas, both. That is, you can't sustain democracy without a

more or less marketized system; it's hard to have a free press

when the government controls the paper supply; and you

can't have a well-functioning market without a somewhat

democratic rule of law--otherwise banks end up being

devices to allow the minister's nephew to gamble with the

public's money. How you get here from there is the big

question; and if the disappointments of transition economies

and the crisis in Asia are any indication, we don't really know

the answer.

You could say that the great fallacy of our time is the belief

that economic reform can be the advance guard of political

reform. So we urge Russia to privatize fast, without a mature

political system, and the result is that everything ends up in

the hands of a few big oligarchs, and the whole idea of

reform is discredited. Or, what might not seem a similar

case, Europe tries to pursue a political dream via a

supposedly practical plan to create a common currency;

when the euro turns out not to be a panacea, and perhaps

even a modest liability, the effect will be to set the goal of

European unity back another couple of decades.

I'm sure you are right that tough economic times help feed

sectarian violence. Above all, unemployment, which

undermines not only material living standards but also

individual dignity, is a breeder of hatred--which is one reason

to be concerned about the prospect that unemployment

rates, especially among young men, will stay very high in

Europe for the foreseeable future. (There was a very good

piece by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times today, by the

way, about how the currency unification in Europe seems to

ensure a protracted slump in Germany.)

But while economic distress certainly makes bad political

outcomes more likely, it's not at all clear that prosperity by

itself leads to political strength. Really effective polities seem

to grow only out of struggles that create some sense of

shared destiny and identity--the kind of thing that Serbia,

alas, seems to have. I've also noticed the surprising

willingness of the British to take on this cause, in contrast to

the rest of Europe; but if you've spent any time in Britain you

know that World War II has a special meaning there, as it

does in the United States to a lesser extent. I hate to sound

like an old-fashioned nationalist, but nations really are always

forged from struggle, and that struggle usually involves war.

One random thought I've had, along these lines, is that it is

just possible that something good will come out of this

disaster. Suppose, just suppose, that NATO really does rise

to the challenge--that its European members, in particular,

manage to find the willpower to really reclaim Kosovo and

bring the war criminals to justice. That could be the kind of

thing that makes Europe a spiritual reality, not just a source

of agricultural subsidies.

I wish I could take this fantasy seriously ...



From: Kathleen M. Sullivan

To: Paul Krugman

Subject: No Blood? No Sweat!

Posted: Thursday, April 1, 1999, at 9:58 a.m. PT

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You're undoubtedly right that strong nations are typically

forged in shared struggle and symbolic moments of unified

exertion against a common enemy. And I agree with you that

a collective effort to stop ethnic and religious murder in

Kosovo could in theory do far more to unify Europe than

working out monetary policy or coal and steel agreements.

But it's far from clear that Kosovo can give a spiritual launch

to a new Europe in fact.

It's not for lack of a motivating idea. Successful struggles

toward strong nationhood surely depend not only on force

but also on ideas: No taxation without representation. A

nation cannot continue half slave and half free. And surely,

there's a clear and unifying idea here, too: Genocide of a

people based on racial, ethnic, or religious identity is beyond

the pale of civilized society. So is the mass eviction, rape, or

torture of a people based on same.

The problem is rather the unwillingness to lay life on the line

for it, as you suggested in our exchange earlier in the week.

NATO is willing to conduct a clean, unbloody air war from

safe distances. And it's eager to conduct a clean, unbloody

series of trials in an eventual war-crimes tribunal. But in

between the two lies the one prospect neither NATO nor the

Clinton administration is ready for: the messy, bloody war on

the ground in which American and European lives would

inevitably be lost. The idea cannot work in the ether; NATO

cannot go directly to Nuremberg without passing go.

The news this morning is unremittingly grim. The military

brass knew all along the bombing would trigger escalated

Serbian persecution of Kosovars. The Clinton administration

is undisciplined enough to let its funk about Milosevic's

resilience and the gruesome refugee crisis leak onto the front

page of the New York Times. Milosevic is reportedly

inspired by Saddam Hussein's cat-with-nine-lives example.

The president is playing golf to make the war look as normal

as, say, impeachment trials and other no-sweat stuff. The

impeachment year reportedly gave Milosevic lots of time to

purge his military and move ahead on Kosovo without the

United States' paying much attention. And the bombing may

move to Belgrade without a clear endgame in sight. Against

all this backdrop, let's hope for something to galvanize your

appealing "fantasy."


From: Paul Krugman

To: Kathleen M. Sullivan

Subject: The Barrel of a Gun

Posted: Thursday, April 1, 1999, at 2:34 p.m. PT


I have to say that this was not the week I would have

wanted to do the "Breakfast Table"--whatever thoughts you

and I might have had about other issues are crowded out by

the events in Kosovo. And I do not think of myself as an

all-purpose pundit. I remember once (during the air phase of

the Gulf War) seeing John Kenneth Galbraith making

pronouncements on TV about the military situation, and

telling friends that if I ever start pontificating in public about a

technical subject I don't understand, they should gag me. In

other words, I have nothing to say about the awful news that

isn't totally obvious.

The one thing I can say that relates a bit to where we started

is that our national mood of cheerful silliness--and of national

self-congratulation--may just have ended. Barring a sudden

collapse of will on the part of Serbia, there seem to be two

possibilities: Either we will shame ourselves by accepting the

elimination of Kosovo's Albanians as a fait accompli

(perhaps while continuing to throw bombs at Serbia now and

then), or we will surprise ourselves by facing up to the reality

that you can't be a great power unless you are prepared to

risk your own citizens' lives. If we discover the strength of

character to do the right thing, there is still the question of

whether European nations will also be prepared to join in.

Some good could still come out of this; but I am not very


I found myself thinking a bit about a rather grim historical

parallel to what is happening now. A number of people have

pointed out that our current era--of free markets triumphant,

the seemingly inexorable spread of global capitalism, general

peace and (unevenly distributed) prosperity--bears some

resemblance to the Belle Époque, to the late 19th-early 20th

century. Both then and now it was common for sophisticated

people to assert that commercial competition had succeeded

the crude warfare of past ages; there was a bestseller by Sir

Norman Angell in 1910, called The Grand Illusion, that

declared war obsolete because it didn't pay, and there have

been innumerable books and articles in the last 10 years

declaring that Star Wars has been succeeded by Trade

Wars, that today's rising countries aren't interested in military

strength because they are too busy making money, that

America rules the world through "soft power," etc. Of

course, Angell's prediction was a bit off; and it seems that

cost-benefit analysis hasn't persuaded Mr. Milosevic either.

Meet the New World Order; same as the Old World Order.

Maybe power does grow out of the barrel of a gun, after all.


From: Kathleen M. Sullivan

To: Paul Krugman

Subject: Remember the Constitution?

Posted: Thursday, April 1, 1999, at 4:20 p.m. PT


It's been something of a shock to the system to have war

news at the breakfast table all week, such a far cry from

batting around, say, impeachment and Monica Lewinsky.

One final ironic reflection this prompts as we leave the

"Breakfast Table" is that the nation got a yearlong

constitutional law lesson on the impeachment process and

the validity of the independent-counsel statute. The average

person at a bar could hold forth impressively on such matters

as whether civil perjury is an impeachable offense, whether

censure of the president is a bill of attainder, and whether

Ken Starr operates as an inferior or superior executive


Now, these are interesting and important matters of

separation of powers, to be sure. But when the president

agrees with our NATO allies to drop bombs on Yugoslavia,

you might think that at least somebody would ask a

constitutional question about separation of powers in this

context, too. Such as what gives the president authority to

do that?

The Constitution gives Congress the exclusive power to

declare war, and there's been no such declaration. The

president is the commander in chief, but it's never been

settled that this power authorizes him to wage any offensive

use of force. We are signatories to the NATO treaty, but

that's a collective defense pact, not an authorization to

intervene in a civil war even in order to prevent genocide or

protect human rights. And even if it were, only the Senate

advises and consents on treaties, which suggests that no

treaty can substitute for the joint action of both houses of

Congress that is required to declare war. Congress' silence

alone can't normally substitute for affirmative authorization.

And even a long tradition of congressional acquiescence in

executive-initiated attacks is not the same as a constitutional


Yet this question goes unasked and unanswered in the news

coverage. It's not a question we've asked much in any recent

intervention, a neglect my friend and former colleague John

Hart Ely tried to reverse in his fine book War and

Responsibility a few years ago. Few issues are a more

important reason to have a constitution.