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More Krugman

By Matthew Yglesias  

"More Krugman"

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Daniel Davies remarks:

And, of course, congratulations to Prof. Krugman himself, who might very well have believed that he’d done his professional status irreparable harm by taking such an aggressive line against the government of the day; he now gets the double pleasure of receiving the highest reward in economics, just as all of his detractors see their repuations ruined. There is probably some pithy epithet from Keynes or JK Galbraith to be inserted here on the general subject of honesty being the best politics, but I can’t think of it just at this instant.

I think the epithet of choice has something to do with revenge being a dish best served atop a Nobel Prize.

One hopes that this will open doors for a somewhat broader public understanding of what the field of economics is all about. In the public debate, my sense is that “economics” tends to be understood as mostly comprising a series of very simple models indicating the desirability of laissez faire (make it more expensive to hire workers by raising the minimum wage and the level of employment will go down — supply and demand, economics 101, QED) that leave it somewhat puzzling as to how this is even a field in which people do PhD-level research. That, of course, isn’t right as you can see from The Economist‘s poll of economists or John McCain’s struggle to find 100 economists who’ll back up his campaign’s assertions.

Meanwhile, Krugman has become known to a wide audience as a left-of-center newspaper columnist. The fact that he’s a credentialed economist has always been well-known, but the point that he’s actually a really well-regarded economist is not all that well-understood. But a Nobel Prize is something people understand. It doesn’t make his political pronouncements the word of God, of course, and there are Nobel Prize winning economists on the right as well. But it does underscore the fact that very many people who really and truly know what they’re talking about think the progressive approach to economic and social policy is the way to go.

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