Sunday, September 18, 2011

The pull of Krugman

It appears I am not the only one who first got mesmerized by economics from reading Paul Krugman's pathbreaking work as an undergrad in 2004. Granted, this guy ended up being much more successful, a lot earlier with it than me. Oh well.

Also it's just simply a good post. But I found the personal history interesting.

This is part of the reason why those Krugman-haters out there sound like such idiots to a lot of us. I know you have your issues with him, but he's the guy that made economics cool, interesting, and important to a lot of people.


  1. I wouldn't use the word successful to describe myself just yet, but thanks... ;)

  2. I agree with Noah about open space laws and zoning laws. I agree that greater population density is a part of a greater spread of ideas that brings innovation and productivity.

    But it does not follow that trains will increase population density.

    It's population density that makes mass transit necessary and reasonable. Not the other way round.

  3. Krugman is easy to make fun of because he says such consistently stupid things on his blog. He's not quite at the level of Thomas Friedman, but he often gets close.

  4. As a conservative I'm interested by the urbanisation angle...

    In Britain the conservative & liberal democrat goverment have taken steps to drastically reduce the complexity of building permits in rural areas.

    I welcome this. I think the left-wing philosophies that cities create are corrosive to good government, so I want to see less urbanisation not more. I find it interesting that you guys have come to the conclusion that urbanization is beneficial.

  5. Noah,

    The concept of scientific research being a public good is imminently challengeable.

    Want cheaper, better roads? Privatize them.

    As for urban density, the richer a nation gets the less dense it becomes and the cheaper it is to live outside the dense urban centers. Having lived in very rural places and very dense urban places I can say that I much prefer the former.

  6. DK wrote:

    This is part of the reason why those Krugman-haters out there sound like such idiots to a lot of us.

    Wow! I'll keep this in mind the next time you wag your finger at Don Boudreaux for his insufficiently courteous tone.

  7. I say that economics has always had something of a galvanizing effect, not unlike Sarah Palin - it causes a great turn-out, for both supporters of the field and haters of the field alike.

    How did everyone here come to economics? For me, it was because my father was trained as an economist at the undergraduate level, and I decided to follow along.

  8. Gary -
    I'm not sure he is making a point about preferences so much as the removal of obstacles to having flourishing dense urban areas. I violate both your aesthetic and his practical argument because I just prefer suburbs. But I still think zoning and transportation adjustments to enable settlement whereever people prefer (and presumably many will settle in cities because of the benefits laid out) are a good idea.

    Bob -
    Given the sort of hateful vitriol out there about Krugman, I'm not sure it counts as "discourteous" to say that people sound like idiots when they do that. Are you saying that people might mistake me for insulting their intelligence? Because I think it's pretty clear from context that I'm not doing that - I'm censuring their behavior.

    I should also note that Don is usually quite courteous - he can just be very deceptive when talking about Keynesianism, and has a history of it. That's disconcerting to many people because he's an educator. But usually he's perfectly polite about all of it.

  9. Daniel,

    Seems like he is calling for more than the removal of obstacles - which I am all for of course.

    "Given the sort of hateful vitriol out there about Krugman..."

    Krugman receives no more hateful vitriol than any other major opinion columnist/blogger that I can think of.

  10. Gary...

  11. Speaking of Krugman (this gets my larger point I think):

  12. Blue Aurora,

    The couple of econ courses (three I think) I took as an undergraduate were complete "turn offs." The approach taken was "black boxery" as I like to call it (it is common across disciplines I'd say). I didn't really become remotely interested in economics until I read Joel Mokyr's _The Lever of Riches_ and then quickly after that David Landes' _The Wealth and Poverty of Nations_; both are works chock full of thick description. If economists wrote more like Simon Schama (along the lines of _Landscape and Memory_) I'd probably find what they do more interesting.

  13. Is Krugman extremely intelligent? Yes.
    Has he made some truly outstanding economic observations? Yes.
    Did he deserve a Nobel for the NTT? Possibly. I must admit, it has been a few years since I read that paper, but what I remember most is the "oohs and ahhs" and ebbs and flows. In other words, it was a roller-coaster ride for me. On one paragraph/page I would be in complete agreement, the next I would be like WTF?
    Does Krugman make some truly amateur mistakes on his blog? Yes.
    Do his critics pounce on these mistakes post haste? Yes.

    I completely understand that he made econ interesting for you and many others, but he does put himself out there on a wide forum. The wider your audience the greater the visibility of both praise and critique. I have read quite a great deal of really solid Krugman critiques from economists, as well as some not so good critiques. But, I think that the bulk of the "Krugman-haters" that you see out there are due to a domino-effect. Basically, there are many people who may not understand the intricacies of economics or political theory, but some economist or political theorist that they admire said "such and such", so these people simply repeat "such and such".

    While I am not a fan of Krugman I still do not see the above as being unfair to the man. The reason being that he is currently one of the most famous economists in the world, he has a wide audience and he has easy access to mass media. In the conflict of ideas he has the upper hand tenfold.


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