Professional geographers agree that you can’t fall off the edge of the world by sailing too far in the wrong direction. Economists as an academic discipline have had more trouble coming to agreement on what works and what fails in their world. Stimulus or austerity? Looser money or tighter money? The seemingly unresolvable fights in academia are an embarrassment to a profession that aspires to the gravitas of, say, chemists or physicists.

The squabbling reached a new height of awkwardness over the weekend at a major meeting in San Diego, where leading economists couldn’t even agree on whether they disagreed. Some scholars said a panel of experts organized by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business showed a remarkably strong consensus among top economists on key issues. Yet Paul Krugman, a Nobel laureate from Princeton University and New York Times columnist, was having none of it.