02/12/2009 01:07 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Settle Down, Boys

On the web you best build an audience by organising a claque and stroking its prejudices. Extend elaborate courtesy to people you agree with and boorish contempt to those who do not get it...

That is Clive Crook in the FT calling Paul Krugman and Robert Barro on the carpet for their recent columns in the NYT and WSJ. He goes on to say:

Economics outside the academy has become the continuation of politics by other means...Mr Krugman gives liberals the economics they want. Mr Barro gives conservatives the same service. They narrow or deny the common ground.

Krugman and Barro both responded to Clive indignantly here, and the tone of their responses only proves Clive's point.

But I don't agree with Clive that people like Krugman and Barro act differently inside the academy. My own experience is that the petulance on display at academic conferences often meets or exceeds that on display in the NYT and WSJ. It makes me wonder why so many very smart people have such fragile egos. Sadly, those egos serve to obscure rather than advance our understanding of the world.