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October 15, 2013

JAMES TARANTO: Co-Op Country: A real estate metaphor for Washington.

No one can outdo Thomas Friedman in the production of labored metaphors, but give Paul Krugman an “E” for Enron–uh, we mean effort. . . .

To begin with, he implies that congressional Republicans–the bad guys in his analogy, in case you’ve never heard of Krugman–are committing crimes (threatening “bodily harm to your family”) as well as engaging in behavior that is vexatious and unreasonable yet completely lawful (filing a “spurious lawsuit” and demanding a settlement). The latter part of the analogy may be defensible, but the former is not.

Spurious lawsuits are of course a problem in the real world, and Krugman misses an opportunity to endorse tort-reform proposals such as the “loser pays” rule, which would compel the fictitious neighbor to pay the reader’s attorney fees after the defendant wins the case.

But note that he prejudges the imagined lawsuit, deeming it “spurious” before it has been litigated. And actually this aspect of the analogy is a bit cleverer than that, for Krugman is inviting the reader to imagine himself as the victim and thereby to empathize with the Democrats. Before even revealing the subject of his column, Krugman rules out the possibility that there is any legitimacy to the substance of the Republican point of view.

The biggest problem with the analogy, though, is procedural. Krugman imagines the Republicans as some jerk who has no right to bother anybody. In reality, they are elected lawmakers, part of a coequal branch of government. They hold a majority in one house of Congress and a large enough minority in the other house to frustrate the will of the majority under its rules. What they are doing is, strictly speaking, entirely legitimate, even if it can be reasonably seen as reckless and obnoxious. (The same was true of the Democratic majorities that enacted ObamaCare in 2009-10.)

To Krugman — and, apparently, to most Obama-supporting Democrats — there’s no such thing as legitimate opposition.