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No True Stimulus

First, a little about the “No true Scotsman” fallacy:

No true Scotsman is an informal logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.[1] When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule.


Alice: All Scotsmen enjoy haggis.

Bob: My uncle is a Scotsman, and he doesn’t like haggis!

Alice: Well, all true Scotsmen like haggis.

Thus, Bob’s uncle is ‘no true Scotsman.’

Now, take Paul Krugman on Obama’s Stimulus Plan:

“…last winter the economy was in acute crisis, with a replay of the Great Depression seeming all too possible. And there was a fairly strong policy response in the form of the Obama stimulus plan, even if that plan wasn’t as strong as some of us thought it should have been.” July 12th, 2009

“Last and probably least, but by no means trivial, have been the deliberate efforts of the government to pump up the economy. From the beginning, I argued that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a k a the Obama stimulus plan, was too small. Nonetheless, reasonable estimates suggest that around a million more Americans are working now than would have been employed without that plan — a number that will grow over time — and that the stimulus has played a significant role in pulling the economy out of its free fall.” August 9th, 2009

“For the fact is that the Obama stimulus — which itself was almost 40 percent tax cuts — was far too cautious to turn the economy around.” December 19th, 2010

Krugman’s guarded academic language, heavily qualified, still goes from “fairly strong” to “significant role” to “far too cautious”.

Eventually, I’m sure Krugman will declare Obama’s stimulus to be ‘no true stimulus’ at all.

[Yes, Krugman did criticize the Stimulus bill as soon as it got chopped up a bit in the Senate, and has consistently maintained it wasn’t enough. My only point here is that his qualifiers regarding the stimulus are progressively changing. Perhaps this piece would make a stronger point if I just used some Obama quotes instead, and ended with “shovel ready wasn’t as shovel ready as we’d have hoped”, but I like using Krugman since he is so slippery and guarded in his statements regarding future outcomes.]

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