Monday, October 13, 2008
The Swedes have given Paul Krugman the Nobel Prize for Economics. If you have only read his columns in the New York Times, you would be right to think this was a decision of Arafatesque idiocy. There are, however, two Paul Krugmans. At least two. Back in the day I read a couple of his pre-partisan books, and they were extremely creative and perceptive. He is far better in that format, writing about his actual academic specialty, than he is in making moral and political arguments outside his area of expertise on the pages of a newspaper. He may well deserve the prize in the abstract.
Unfortunately, regular blog readers and even the occasional Princetonian regard Krugman as both thin-skinned and possessed of a great opinion of himself. As with Al Gore, I fear that the depreciating but nonetheless potent prestige of the Nobel Prize will only make him more insufferable.
MORE: Take the insufferability poll!
Krugman's problem, as I read him, is not so much his arrogance (common to all great academics who must have arrogance to propose and develop a theory which, by definition, cannot be generally held at its inception), as his inability to assume good faith in the political arena.
I'm quite sure he can do so in the academic arena, but he has an academic's scorn for the less educated in the political one. And in the political arena, just about everybody's less educated than he is.
Ray spotted the comment right on. Krugman has a mind as sharp as a knife in the area of economics, but when he turns that mind to politics he can't help but use the dull back of the blade. Great minds come up with great ideas, but the truly great minds can describe their ideas rationally to those of us with less-than-great minds without sounding contemptuous and arrogant.
Perhaps a Nobel prize in economics should be awarded to somebody who saw this whole mess coming and tried to pass legislation to stop it?
TH: "Back in the day I read a couple of his pre-partisan books, and they were extremely creative and perceptive. He is far better in that format, writing about his actual academic specialty, than he is in making moral and political arguments outside his area of expertise on the pages of a newspaper."
"I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy." --Richard P. Feynman *42
"That goes double for an economist." --me
So let me see, people who no one knows,with no background in economic theory,are convinced that world renowned professor of economics Krugman,whose work is admired by all within his own area of scholarship, is somehow not deserving of this honor because he exhibits Bush derangement syndrome? Really?
Every time I see Krugman on TV he seems exceptionally nervous. It' almost as if he expects someone to step up and hit him.
Maybe that's just "being on TV". Or perhaps I'm mistaken.
I have to admit I was surprised to see he won the Prize.