Paul Krugman Calls Niall Ferguson's Latest Attack 'Pathetic'

Mar 06, 2013 | Updated Mar 07, 2013

Paul Krugman and Niall Ferguson have gotten themselves into yet another public spat.

The latest back-and-forth between the New York Times columnist and Harvard historian, respectively, began when Bloomberg TV's Sara Eisen reached out to Ferguson by email to ask whether he thought Krugman's attacks have become too personal. Ferguson responded by saying, in short, yes:

In my view Paul Krugman has done fundamental damage to the quality of public discourse on economics. He can be forgiven for being wrong, as he frequently is--though he never admits it. He can be forgiven for relentlessly and monotonously politicizing every issue. What is unforgivable is the total absence of civility that characterizes his writing. His inability to debate a question without insulting his opponent suggests some kind of deep insecurity perhaps the result of a childhood trauma. It is a pity that a once talented scholar should demean himself in this way.

Krugman took none too kindly to Ferguson's words, calling them "pathetic" in a written response to Bloomberg TV Wednesday:

My view is that I am indeed raising public awareness in an effective way -- because the crucial first step is to get the public's attention.... As for Ferguson: what a pathetic response. Notice that he is doing precisely what I never do, and making it about the person as opposed to his ideas. All I have ever done to him is point out that he seems to not know what he is talking about, and that he has been repeatedly wrong. I would never stoop to speculating about his childhood! If he can't handle professional criticism -- which is all that I have ever offered -- he should go find another profession.

The fight is just the latest in a long, semi-bitter rivalry between the two scholars. In their most recent high-profile spat, Krugman called for a correction to Ferguson's August cover story on President Barack Obama -- Ferguson claimed that Obamacare increases the deficit -- to which Ferguson said no and stood by his article.

Krugman also has criticized Ferguson for what he says is the incorrect prediction that the stimulus would cause interest rates to rise. Ferguson, for his part, has criticized Krugman for calling for more government spending, taking issue with financial deregulation and claiming budget cuts in Europe have been self-defeating.

UPDATE: Ferguson said in an emailed statement to The Huffington Post Thursday: "The idea that Krugman does not 'make it about the person,' in his inelegant phrase, is absurd -- as everyone else he has attacked in similar ways will confirm."

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