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June 28, 2013 4:04 PM Derpaganza

By Ed Kilgore

At Lunch Buffet I noted the Krugman-Erickson exchange (in which I accidentally played midwife) over inflation rates, wherein the latter pretty much concedes Krugman is right but it doesn’t matter because people “perceive” inflation as being rampant, even though it’s demonstrably not. Business Insider’s Josh Barro takes the occasion to cite Erickson’s point of view as a classic example of the Twitter-term “derp:”

Erickson’s rant is literally the definition of derp. He has a strong prior inclination to believe that inflation is high. As such, his view is not responsive to strong evidence to the contrary, such as BLS data showing very low inflation both overall and in the specific products that Erickson is whining about.
The reason we need inflation data is that casual perceptions of inflation tend to be wildly inaccurate. The Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank surveyed over 20,000 people between 1998 and 2001 and found that, on average, Americans thought inflation was around 6.0%; during that period, actual CPI inflation averaged 2.7%.
So, Erickson’s ignorant view of inflation actually is more authentically American than Bernanke’s.

Barro links to an earlier piece in which he defined “derp:”

[A] policy commentator is “derpy” when his or her (usually his) prior assumptions about the world are so unwarrantedly strong that he is unswayable by evidence. Derpers have a faith-based approach to policy.
Derp is a problem in political debates always and everywhere, but these days it is especially epidemic on the right. Derp is what leads conservatives to insist that hard money is a good idea even as it wrecks the economies of southern Europe; that tax rate cuts are the key to economic growth from any economic and policy baseline; or that Mitt Romney will win the election even when the clear consensus of the polls is that he is behind.

If you care, the actual term “derp” appears to have originated in the works of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, most particularly in the execrable 1998 movie BASEketball, in which the normally very funny duo unmemorably starred.

But there’s a backstory to Barro’s use of “derp” in response to Erickson: Earlier this month ol’ Erick trashed Barro as the poster-child for bogus (e.g., heretical) “conservative reformers.” Josh responded with the speed and wrath of (to borrow a phrase from the late Hunter Thompson) a wolverine taking on a three-toed sloth:

[F]or two decades, the Republican party’s strategy to overcome its disadvantage on economic issues has been a cultural appeal to people like Erickson: non-urban whites who feel threatened by social change. That is, the kind of people who think it’s an alarming trend that women are financially independent, or who think the most salient fact about a writer they dislike might be his sexual orientation.
This is a strategic problem for Republicans for several reasons. One is that the party’s reliance on a resentment-based appeal has caused its policy apparatus to atrophy. Erickson is not alone among conservatives in thinking that “academic and technocratic” approaches are best left to pointy-headed liberals. Another is that people like Erickson are a declining share of the electorate.
Basically, Erickson is derpy. And Erickson has big appeal to conservatives because lots of them are derpy. But the country is getting less derpy, and in time the Republican party will have to get less derpy, too. That’s my project, and I don’t expect Erickson to like it.

C’mon, Erick. Take another swing.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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