On Paul Krugman’s New York Times Editorial ‘Scots, What the Heck?’


  By Mark McNaught
When Newsnet Scotland availed me of the opportunity to write editorials two years ago, I was able to pursue an art form that I could only dream of living in the United States, especially in the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Reading columns by the likes of George Will, Thomas Friedman, Eugene Robinson, Richard Cohen, Paul Krugman and others, I got an appreciation for how 700 odd words, carefully crafted, could allow you to learn and appreciate a perspective, whether you agreed with it or not.

Nobel-prize winning New York Times columnist, Princeton Economics Professor, and increasingly prominent and contentious talking-head Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times ‘Scots, What the Heck?’.  While I agree with his perspective on many things, it is clear he has no idea what is happening in the Scottish independence debate.

One expects an economist to be myopic, primarily focusing on currencies, debts, and deficits rather than national aspirations for a better future.  However, his ignorance of the possibilities that an independent Scotland has to embody the economic values he virulently espouses in his columns moved me to politely respond.

As an insular American intellectual perhaps Mr Krugman is unaware that his admonition ‘Be afraid, be very afraid’ is all Scots have been hearing for decades.  Do you know who Alistair Darling is, and if so did you have a strategy session before you wrote this column?

They are words which ring in Scots’ ears with piercing familiarity, to suppress self-determination and collective self-confidence, despite being among the most educated and ingenious people in the world.  You’re on television because a Scot invented it.  Do you think they can’t govern themselves?

I passionately agreed with your columns over the your hatred for the Iraq war, which Scots were dragged into as part of the UK.  Americans were lied to and brainwashed into supporting the war, which virtually all Scots were instinctively against.  Scotland is basically an English colony, and Scots know all about colonialism, having helped run the British Empire.  They have moved on.

If Scotland had been independent in 2003, it is inconceivable that they would have sent troops to Iraq as part of the ‘coalition of the willing’.  They would have been with you, Mr. Krugman, not Tony Blair who is now viewed by many Scots as a fraudulent war criminal.

I also know through your columns that you are an unabashed liberal in the US sense or the word, or in the UK someone who supports social justice and economic equality.  For Scots, the only party who currently comes close to those ideals is the Scottish National Party.

Ronald Reagan liked to say ‘I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me’.  Scots feel the same way about the UK Labour party for opposite reasons, which the Scottish Labour Party must parrot.

John Smith was the last UK Labour leader worthy of the name.  Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and Ed Miliband have swallowed Thatcherite neo-liberalism hook, line and sinker, and would lose elections in the population dominant in the south-east of England if they had the temerity to propose policies which advanced social justice.  All UK parties are tools of the City of London and corporate lobbyists.  Krugman should know better.

Scots are solidly centre-left, with a sense of social solidarity that Mr. Krugman would long to see in many more Americans.  Scots detest the Tories and UKIP at least as much as Mr. Krugman hates the Republican Party and the Tea Party, which are basically mirror images in each country respectively.

In the US, there is ‘mixed’ government in the sense that the President is a Democrat, the Senate has a slight Democratic Majority and the House of Representatives has a Republican majority yanked further to the right by the Tea Party.  Needless to say, it is a dysfunctional quagmire.

In the UK, there is no ‘luxury’ of mixed government, but it is still a quagmire.  The current Parliament is Tory with spineless sycophantic Liberal Democrat coalition partners, and a neo-liberal Labour ‘opposition’.

Scots did not vote for this government.  There is one conservative MP in all of Scotland.  However, their draconian policies that you so abhor for Americans are rammed down Scots’ throats whether they like it or not, and they can’t vote them out.
Mr. Krugman, if you lived and had a chance to vote ‘yes’ in 1776 for American independence rather than going to war, how would you have voted?  Scots are not occupied militarily by England, but their constitutional grievances against Westminster ring just as true as in the Declaration of Independence.  Why is independence from Westminster bad for Scotland but good for Americans?  Let me know if you think of a convincing answer, because I haven’t heard one yet.

I haven’t really touched on the central critique of your scare story, about currency. Something about Florida and Spain.  The Benelux countries had an excellent currency union.  It can work, if there is good will.  Westminster is a vipers nest, so we’ll see how much the pound plunges because of their idiotic currency threat, and whether that will change their tune.

I live in France, and the euro works for me, even though I have no control over interest rates.  The US had dozens of different dollars issued through different states and sources before settling on the greenback, and it worked out OK.  Whatever the option, Scotland will implement it well.  Talk to your colleague Joseph Stiglitz.  He’ll set you straight.

Nothing is simple, let alone setting up a new state and currency.  Scots are an ingenious people longing to govern themselves.  On September 18th, they will ignore your establishment scaremongering and choose independence, as you would do if you were true to your convictions expressed in your columns.

In the meantime, take off your green eyeshades and imagine the possibilities of a country embodying the ideals you have consistently espoused.  Maybe you might see Scottish independence as meaning more than currency options.

Or are you just another establishment hack?

We’ll see after September 18th, when your crass insulting scaremongering is ignored by an increasingly confident nation who wants to control their own destiny.  Your next column could be entitled ‘Scots: right on!’