Economics

No, Not Jack Klugman…

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Sam Staley—director of urban and land use policy at the Reason Foundation, the organization that publishes this magazine— defends Paul Krugman's Nobel Prize:

Krugman is best known for his explicitly liberal NY Times column, arguing for more redistribution, government subsidized (and run) health care, and all manner of government activism in the economy. Policy positions aside, Krugman is a[s] deserving a winner of the prize as any economist the Nobel committee could choose.

The Nobel Prize is awarded for contributions to the academic and research side of economics, not policy positions. Here, Krugman has made lasting, meaningful, and insightful contributions to our understanding of international trade and the growth of cities. If anything, his academic work has strengthened the case for economic freedom on international trade by weakening the hands of central planners….

Krugman's work is now standard in international trade courses and I continue to make his insightful and pathbreaking book Geography and Trade required reading in my classes on urban and regional economics.

Not every libertarian is so pleased, to judge from the reactions this morning from Peter Boettke and Jeff Tucker. Tyler Cowen, on the other hand, seems delighted.

I am not an economist, and I only know Krugman's technical work by reputation, so I can't engage this topic on anything approaching a deep level. I can say that back before he had a home at the New York Times, I enjoyed Krugman's 1994 book Peddling Prosperity and several articles he wrote for pop venues like The Wilson Quarterly. There's much more to the man than the standard-issue liberal that manifests itself in his op-eds, and I hope—but doubt—that the broader reaction to his award will go beyond the knee-jerk cheers and jeers from the fans and foes of his column.

Update: Bryan Caplan is happy about Krugman's victory.

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  1. It is a shame Krugman didn’t use his talents to write about economics for a popular audience at the NYTs.He has nothing to offer as a political pundit.Krugman’s hackery makes Bob Herbert look good in comparison

  2. I’ve read his stuff on Urban Agglomeration for an econ class, and he’s a terrific scholar of economics. He’s one of those people who can use very simple modeling techniques to convincingly demonstrate a point, and write with enough clarity that you know what he’s doing. I thought he was a useless blowhard from his columns, but he’s actually a brilliant, talented person who also happens to be a blowhard.

  3. The discussion of Paul Krugman’s Nobel Prize in economics is, I’m sure, going to get very political very fast. So it’s worth emphasizing that his work on currency crises and on economic geography — the former not even cited by the Nobel committee — is indubitably Nobel-worthy.

    Felix Salmon

    That may be true, but I still don’t want to see Krugman running the Fed.

  4. Space Ghost’s fifteen minutes of lame are up! Let the Krugman revolution begin!

  5. I still don’t want to see Krugman running the Fed.

    I don’t know … can he be much worse than what we have now?

  6. The Nobel committee has just been forgiven for giving the prize to Milton Friedman.

  7. Bryan Caplan has an excellent take

    [A]s a cock-eyed optimist, I’m very happy to have him around. Think about it: The world’s most famous left-wing economist:

    1. Blames European unemployment on labor market regulations that hold wages above the market-clearing level. (The Accidental Theorist, Part 1)

    2. Publicly and articulately advocates free trade without hemming or hawing. (Pop Internationalism)

    3. Identifies anti-globalization activists as the enemies of the world’s poor. (The Accidental Theorist, Part 3)

    4. Titles an essay “In Praise of Cheap Labor: Bad Jobs at Bad Wages Are Better than No Jobs at All” (The Accidental Theorist, Part 3)

    5. Points out that if you oppose Big Government, you should favor cutting Social Security, Medicare, and other popular programs. (“The Lost Fig Leaf”) Sure, he’s hoping to scare us away from libertarian rhetoric, but there’s no use running away from the truth.

  8. Is Georgraphy and Trade something that would be worthwhile reading for an interested layman, or is it more like a textbook?

  9. The Nobel committee has just been forgiven for giving the prize to Milton Friedman.

    oh goody, now it’s going the other way: first it was “Krugman is TEH econ HACK!” and now it’s “Other economists are TEH Hacks!”.

    YoungLiberal, I’d wager you know Jack and shit about economics, so close your mouth.

  10. Since Krugman is not a complete socialist, libertarians should be happy he won the Nobel? Since he is (ostenibly) a free trader, libertarians should not be concerned that a True Believer Keynesian New Dealer with considerable fame and new Nobel credentials will quite possibly be tapped by Obama to help map out a Newer Deal in the coming bad times? Is this really what it’s come down to? God help us all.

  11. go get ’em, emac! you argue against that thing that hasn’t happened yet!

    Is that some kinda “futuristic strawman”?

  12. No matter the subject, I know I can come here and find experts. Usually the same folks on every subject, actually.

    Also, it may seem counter-intuitive, but the more insults and profanity your writings feature, the more effective the argument. Geography and Trade featured 27 instances of the word “Fucktard”. Groundbreaking. So most of you here are on the right track.

  13. I’d wager you know Jack and shit about economics

    I’d wager the same of you.

    so close your mouth

    You may want to consider your own advice.

  14. can he be much worse than what we have now?

    JP- Good question.

  15. I’d wager the same of you.

    You’d be wrong. You’ll note that there are a few of us here who are not taking the political positions of Laureates into account in determining whether they “deserve” their awards.

    Krugman does good econ work. Friedman did good econ work. Anybody who says otherwise doesn’t understand the field or is evaluating them solely on their perceived politics, which is ignorance.

  16. Angry person, since you obviously have nothing better to do with your life then to troll this blog and reply to my comments with snark of no substance, let me pose a real question to you: do you believe that Keynesian Paul Krugman was the most deserving economist in the world to receive the Nobel Prize this year, for his observations on global trade patterns? And if so, why exactly?

    My lunch break is almost over. I’ll check after work for your certain-to-be well thought-out response.

  17. The Angry Optimist | October 13, 2008, 12:32pm | #
    The Nobel committee has just been forgiven for giving the prize to Milton Friedman.

    oh goody, now it’s going the other way: first it was “Krugman is TEH econ HACK!” and now it’s “Other economists are TEH Hacks!”.

    YoungLiberal, I’d wager you know Jack and shit about economics, so close your mouth.

    TAO, wft? Are you just trying to maintain street cred to hang on to your handle?

    If so, please balance with some optimism.

    Thnx

  18. The Angry Optimist | October 13, 2008, 12:52pm | #
    I’d wager the same of you.

    You’d be wrong.

    TAO’s best friend is named “Jack.”
    And he knows shit about economics…

    ;^)

  19. NM – my fault. It’s just that injecting politics into science really riles me up.

    do you believe that Keynesian Paul Krugman was the most deserving economist in the world to receive the Nobel Prize this year, for his observations on global trade patterns?

    Really, the onus is on you to prove he somehow didn’t deserve the award, which you have consistently failed to do.

    Also, there’s really no point in arguing with someone who characterizes a free-trading, no-price-controls economist as a “not complete socialist”.

    I’ve been pulling for Gordon Tullock for years, but I recognize that he’s a cranky bastard and some of the award is a “plays well with others” kind of thing.

    Is he a Keynesian? Yeah (probably. Does that make his economic work any less important? No, no more than Chomsky’s moron politics make him less of a linguist.

  20. it was more fun trashing him.

  21. Joe (and others): Geography and Trade is compilation of lectures Krugman gave at MIT on economic geography. The essays, for the most part, are accessible to the “layperson” but having some knowledge of economics helps. The essays contain a few formulas, but they can be skipped without losing clarity or understanding.

  22. Thanks, Sam.

    I agree wholeheartedly with TAO, and I’d like to point out that his argument applies just as well to Michael Moynihan’s recent whining about Nobel Prizes for Literature that were given to leftists.

  23. Though I am a physicist, I know little about the work of Nambu et. al. So, I will decide whether or not their Nobel was deserved based on their political views.

    This is an excellent way to judge scholarly work.

  24. Giving “economist Krugman” his due, he was one of the few to correctly predict the end of the Japanese expansion at a time when the conventional wisdom was, shall we say, irrationally exuberant.

  25. This difficulty is similar to the one we have reconciling Chomsky’s standing in linguistics with his egregious view on politics, history, and economics.

    Basically, look at what he gets cited for academically, and what he doesn’t.
    (i.e. Chomsky’s geopolitical books are laymans junk that doesn’t have any academic traction. Just like Krugman’s columns.)

    What irritates me is that academics don’t make an effort to tell either them off. Academics in general are reserved folk that have an unfortunately tendancy to let bad ideas run wild in the publci and assume that everything will sort itself out eventually.

  26. Really, the onus is on you to prove he somehow didn’t deserve the award, which you have consistently failed to do.

    Nice deflection to get out of even making an attempt of answering my question. And also untrue. I’ve certainly made a much better case why Krugman does not deserve the Nobel than you have proving that he did, since you have made no argument at all. Besides, others have made this point much better than me.

    Is he a Keynesian? Yeah (probably. Does that make his economic work any less important? No, no more than Chomsky’s moron politics make him less of a linguist.

    Wow, what a great analogy. Because politics and linguistics are obviously every bit as interrelated as Keynesianism and economics.

  27. “Angry person, since you obviously have nothing better to do with your life then to troll this blog and reply to my comments with snark of no substance, let me pose a real question to you: do you believe that Keynesian Paul Krugman was the most deserving economist in the world to receive the Nobel Prize this year, for his observations on global trade patterns? And if so, why exactly?

    My lunch break is almost over. I’ll check after work for your certain-to-be well thought-out response.

    and your extensive graduate studies of economics bring you to this conclusion?

    you’re a scholar of economics, right?

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