Sunday, February 12, 2012

There's something about Krugman...

This is a great post on Krugman by Stephen Williamson, not because I think Williamson really gets it, but because he demonstrates perfectly the contours of the economic blogosphere's mania with that man. The post is titled "The Krugman we Used to Love". He writes:

"Someone forwarded a link to this post, from October 25, 1996, by Paul Krugman in Slate. This is an excellent piece. It's beautifully written and well-argued. I agree with essentially everything in it. It's bold, in that Krugman sticks up for Economic Science in the face of a barrage of criticism from what he thinks are loose-thinking innumerate "economists." He concludes with:
'The literati truly cannot be satisfied unless they get economics back from the
nerds. But they can't have it, because we nerds have the better claim.'
I know some nerds too. Bob Lucas: nerd. Mark Gertler: nerd. Nobu Kiyotaki: serious nerd. Ed Prescott: very serious nerd. Mike Woodford: nerd. Neil Wallace: serious nerd. Tom Sargent: incredibly serious nerd nerd. But somewhere between 1996 and 2012, Krugman changed his tune. He stopped being defender-of-the-nerds and went over to the dark side."

What's funny about this is that I'm guessing every modern Krugman fan who read this post thought "wait a minute - that's the Krugman we still love - Williamson nailed it, but what is he talking about with this 'went over to the dark side' stuff?" That first paragraph is just too perfect. That's exactly what I like so much about Krugman today, in 2012.

And then it becomes very obvious - Krugman hasn't changed a bit. He hasn't abandoned economics. He probably has about the same views that he did a decade and a half ago. But because different issues have come up since then (wars and depressions - rather than trade agreements) he writes about different stuff. And Stephen Williamson and others are not on his side of this other stuff anymore.


  1. I like the posturing here, economists as persecuted nerd minority.

    I've hung out with lots of nerds and academics in my day. The literati are also a bunch of nerds. The difference I think is that economists are the mean nerds who yell at you during a game of Dungeons and Dragons because you don't know if you are supposed to role three six sided dice or one 20 sided die.

    1. Proud to say I've never played D&D. My roommate in college did, and I hung out in the lounge for one or two games. It was interesting, but never interesting enough to tempt me to join in.

    2. Stephen Williamson is a fool, and that post illustrates. He praises Krugman for a Slate column. In that column, Krugman attacks James Galbraith. But Krugman attacks a strawperson; he is seriously misrepresenting Galbraith's work and views. You can easily check this out: But Williamson, an ignoramus, says about that Krugman article, "I agree with essentially everything in it."

      Williamson writes, "I can't remember exactly when Krugman began writing op-eds for the NYT, but that certainly predates the Bush administration." I don't know why Williamson cannot be bothered to look this up. Anyways, long-time Krugman readers know the Times editors forbid him to use the word "lie" to characterize the lies George W. Bush put out as proposals during his 2000 campaign.

      Williamson writes a lot about how economics is a science and how they follow a scientific methodology. A few months back, he told us he had to look up the meaning of the word "incommensurable". So we know Williamson is basically unlettered when it comes to the literatures on the philosophy, sociology, and history of science.


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