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Sunday, August 09, 2009

The most revealing fact about Paul Krugman you will ever read 


For those few of you who may have wondered "how can Paul Krugman be such a huge fan of government intervention in our daily lives," we now have the answer: Blame Isaac Asimov!

What most readers probably don’t know is the reason Krugman became an economist in the first place. “I went into economics,” he wrote in an e-mail message, “because I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels, in which social scientists save galactic civilization, and that’s what I wanted to be.”

Yes, Krugman wants to save galactic civilization. No wonder he likes Barack Obama so much.

Anyway, for those of you who have not read it, the Foundation cycle turns on a model-driven social science called "psychohistory," which allows sufficiently brilliant academics to predict the actions of large populations (although not individuals or small groups) with great specificity over extremely long periods of time. The central hero's model predicts the decline, fall, and ultimiate resurrection of a galactic empire, and his actions allow the post-imperial "dark ages" to last for only a few hundred years instead of the originally predicted 30,000 years. An economist's wet dream, to be sure, but the story makes me wonder how many of today's climate alarmists were also big fans of Foundation.

38 Comments:

By Blogger Stephen, at Sun Aug 09, 09:37:00 AM:

Good question! Although group think and a desire to control people's lives seems to be a driving force behind communism, fascism and socialism (ie, pre-Asimov). People who seem to favor utopian efforts should be mocked for their stupidity.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 09, 09:41:00 AM:

I really must say that when I read/hear statements like this I cannot help but think of that famous quote from C.S. Lewis about preferring the tyranny of robber barons and such to that of moral busybodies.

I admit that that's a bit melodramatic given the fact that it's Krugman we're talking about, but still....  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 09, 09:49:00 AM:

Even if the climate alarmists never read the Foundation series specifically, the psychology that guides the novels would be very familiar to them, don't you think? There is some deep strain of reliance on Plato's views too, and his age-old question "Which is superior: a bad Democracy or a beneficent tyranny?" is an easy question for the climate crazies.  

By Anonymous Red County Pete, at Sun Aug 09, 10:19:00 AM:

Growing up, I read a lot of Asimov (spent most of my teenage years in the Science Fiction section of the library), but Heinlein spoke more directly to me.

"An armed society is a polite society."  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Aug 09, 10:46:00 AM:

...and also one where politicians tread carefully.  

By Anonymous Dave Schuler, at Sun Aug 09, 04:56:00 PM:

It also makes me wonder if they were so dazzled by the idea of psychohistory that they missed the central theme of the original trilogy: that it's impossible to plan that far ahead. Something unexpected always goes wrong.  

By Anonymous Stan/Tx, at Sun Aug 09, 06:31:00 PM:

Tigerhawk, have you read the original three books of the Foundation series?

I would suggest that the central theme is the advantage of small a small responsive government over a large bureaucratic government. Physcohistory was the microscope to observe and predict mass actions that also becomes useless as a tool if the masses learn of it.

Social scientists do not save the galaxy; a group of independent people is placed in a situation where they cannot depend on the central government for support and thereby form the seed of a new galactic empire.

It is obvious that Mr. Krugman understood Asimov as poorly as he does economics.  

By Blogger Roy Lofquist, at Sun Aug 09, 06:40:00 PM:

Isaac Asimov was an historic genius. He wrote well over 100 published books. He was one of the best ever at simplifying and explaining the hard sciences - physics, chemistry, etc.

But he did not confine himself to science fiction and science. I have in front of me his "
Asimov's Guide to the Bible". It relates all the major verses of the Bible to what is known of the contemporary history with maps and extensive footnotes and end notes. He points out where the current popular versions of the Bible differ from each other and why. It is 1,020 pages - a prodigious work of scholarship. I have been reading it for more than 20 years - pick it up at whim and read.

As to The Foundation Series - knew as a youth that is was a speculative fantasy but a fun read.  

By Blogger Noocyte, at Mon Aug 10, 01:00:00 AM:

As a kid, Asimov's Psychohistory was a compelling concept for me. The idea that one could predict the so-called "Seldon Crises" and intervene in such a way as to right the ship of history appealed to my kid's sense that rules governed the unfolding of the universe, and that those rules, if knowable, could be used to control one's environment.

I have since learned to recoil from such a deterministic view of things.

It is not hyperbole to say that the most influential concept I have encountered in my travels has been that of chaos/complexity/dynamic systems theory. It was the kernel of my dissertation (_Nested Systems: Evolving Models of Embodied Psychotherapy_, a proposed metatheory of psychological functioning and clinical practice based on complexity theory). The upshot with respect to this topic is that complex dynamic systems are not predictable, but evolve in ways which are describable. Such a view threads the needle between the deterministic view of Asimov as interpreted by Krugman, and a totally fatalistic, anarchic view of history (and the clutching at totalitarian control by which some might choose to hedge against such chaos).

As Stan/Tx rightly pointed out, the chief value of Seldon's psychohistory was to provide a tool by which informed individuals could recognize and ride the currents of history, neither striving to brute-force their way to control, nor simply stumbling blindly.

The tragicomedy of Krugman and his ilk is that they would so misunderstand Asimov as to use his work to justify their statist, top-down, hierarchical will to control, while retaining none of the humility with which we must greet the unfolding of the universe according to lawful and describable but fluid and dynamic topographies. They superimpose a naive, linear conception of things onto the roiling "rubber-sheet" phase spaces of human affairs, and so are perennially susceptible to catastrophic data loss.

The arrogance of such people is a very perilous form of folly.  

By Blogger Noocyte, at Mon Aug 10, 01:14:00 AM:

As an alternative, I would offer _In The Country Of the Blind_ by Michael Flynn (a marvelous modern SF writer, whose libertarian tendencies echo through his magnum opus _Firestar_ series). In it, Flynn describes the science of "Cliology," a method of actuarial analysis by which one can usefully predict trends in society...and the perilous distortions of probability which can ensue when more than one such project exist at the same time (and the curiously paradoxical re-emergence of freedom within such a complexified environment).

Flynn is a superb writer, too, with characters so well-drawn and dimensional that they have, on more than one occasion, appeared in my dreams as fully-existent individuals.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 10, 01:38:00 AM:

So, is Tall Paul saying that Obambi is the Mule?  

By Anonymous Brian Schmidt, at Mon Aug 10, 01:35:00 PM:

I'm someone that TH might call an alarmist.

I liked Asmiov (mostly), but I also liked Heinlein (mostly).

I tend to like the sci-fi and pop culture recommendations put up by the people at the Corner whose political taste is terrible. Go figure.  

By Blogger Joseph, at Mon Aug 10, 06:44:00 PM:

If only Krugman had read The End of Eternity (also by Asimov) instead. In The End of Eternity, all of history is planned by the Eternals, planners who really are all-wise because they have time travel and can see what the effects of their actions will be, ... and they still manage to make a mess of things. To quote:

"Any system like Eternity which allows men to choose their own future will end by choosing safety and mediocrity, and in such a Reality the stars are out of reach."  

By Blogger PrestoPundit, at Mon Aug 10, 07:12:00 PM:

Love it!

Fake science inspired by fake science!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 10, 07:17:00 PM:

Totally off topic, but of interest would be Fritz Lieber's "The Big Time", about warring super civilizations that use humans as proxies to manipulate Earth's past to create a different future.

And "The Man in the High Castle" by Philip Dick, in which the Germans and the Japanese win WWII. Hilarity ensues (not really). But a character in the book insists that in an alternate reality the US won WWII. Interesting.

-David  

By Anonymous luagha, at Mon Aug 10, 07:18:00 PM:

To echo Anonymous at 1:38 am:

Hari Seldon's psychohistorical predictions are all thrown away when 'The Mule'; a single psychically charismatic leader, takes power.

Paul Krugman clearly didn't learn his lessons from Isaac Asimov's books.  

By Anonymous Orrin, at Mon Aug 10, 07:19:00 PM:

It's funny to see this. About a month ago, I decided to re-read the series, but read the WHOLE series, including the earlier Robot novels that Asimov later tied into the "Foundation" universe. In those novels (Robots of Dawn, Robots and Empire) one of the central themes is the decay that's inevitable in a human society in which people seek only to be taken care of by others. I'm finding the political/philosophical implications fascinating as I read. It's unfortunate Krugman didn't read more of IA's books and with more of an open mind.  

By Anonymous Davidwhitewolf, at Mon Aug 10, 07:23:00 PM:

Well, there's also the apparent inspiration given by Asimov's trilogy to Osama bin Laden, given that "al Quaeda" may be translated as "the Foundation." So I wouldn't say that this bit of salutary information about Krugman necessarily makes him more of a "good guy."  

By Blogger Steven, at Mon Aug 10, 07:28:00 PM:

Actually, the quote is much, much more revealing than it seems.

You see, the Foundation Trilogy isn't actually about social scientist Hari Seldon saving civilization. That's just the manipulating lie the First Foundation is told.

Starting halfway through the second volume of the trilogy, it is revealed that it's actually about a clique of people with mind control powers (the Second Foundation) manipulating society into a universal empire which their clique will absolutely dominate.  

By Blogger Peter Blogdanovich, at Mon Aug 10, 07:31:00 PM:

From the same era, but more on point, the "Weapon shops of Ishtar" by A. E. Van Vogt. Kind of a "World after Health Care Reform" motif, where the guns finally come out. Highly recommended.  

By Anonymous John C. Randolph, at Mon Aug 10, 07:52:00 PM:

The "psychohistory" science that Asimov dreamed up in the Foundation series is the Marxist wet dream of utterly controlling society on some allegedly scientific basis.

It's not at all surprising that an ivory-tower moron like Krugman, who has never in his life been responsible for operating a business and meeting commitments to his customers, shareholders, and employees, would be attracted to the idea. It claims that mathematicians are entitled to tell everyone else what to do.

Of course, Krugman misses the central fact in the story, which is that the galactic empire collapses because it's simply not possible to keep such a massive collection of planets together under the rule of a central authority, no matter how many Krugmans they employ.  

By Blogger Chris Wysocki, at Mon Aug 10, 08:02:00 PM:

Is Obambi The Mule? No, he's Daneel.

When Asimov (and then David Brin) tied Robots into Foundation he screwed mankind. Daneel fought "chaos" and took every opportunity (first as Demerzel and then as himself) to bring conformity to the universe. The "Zeroth Law" became the downfall of civilization.

If Lodovic Trema had won, mankind would have won.  

By Blogger Hector Owen, at Mon Aug 10, 08:31:00 PM:

Thanks, TigerHawk, that's rich. Linked it. Peter Blogdanovitch, that's a good cite, but it's Isher. "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free." Ishtar is somebody else.  

By Blogger Grim, at Mon Aug 10, 08:48:00 PM:

You know who else loved the Foundation series enough to model his life's work on it? You'll never guess.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 10, 08:53:00 PM:

Krugman may not have been the only one influenced by Asimov in general, and the Foundation in particular:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/aug/24/alqaida.sciencefictionfantasyandhorror  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Aug 10, 09:30:00 PM:

Leaving Asimov aside, the "change the world" mantra is pretty standard moral conceit all across the left. This is the most common reason given to why people enter journalism. You don't need to be a trekkie to become intoxicated by this sort of moral vanity.  

By Anonymous Brian Macker, at Mon Aug 10, 09:40:00 PM:

"It is obvious that Mr. Krugman understood Asimov as poorly as he does economics."

Exactly what I was thinking.  

By Blogger Charles, at Mon Aug 10, 09:47:00 PM:

This is all very interesting talk. I read the Foundation series in Middle School and thought it a good read.

Asimov's writings were always a good read. I loved the short stories, but the Foundation series had me turning the pages.

Thing is, for me, the thing I got from the Foundation series is this: what needs to be done needs to be done and there's no avoiding it. You can only kick your problems into the future for so long. At some point, someone must deal with it. Better to do it sooner rather than later, and to prepare for it before that time comes. Granted, the Hari Seldon angle was pretty interesting. Personally, I think he half thought the collapse was inevitable due to the sheer weight of the empire.

In that sense, Krugman has completely missed the point. I don't get that sense of urgency and preparation from this administration. I also never got it from Krugman, who routinely said the sky was falling during the Bush administration but never gave any good advice what to do about it when the sky finally did fall.  

By Blogger Ken Mitchell, at Mon Aug 10, 10:14:00 PM:

I LOVE it! Paul Krugman, Enron apologist extraordinaire, wanted to grow up to be Hari Seldon, the mind-controlled PUPPET of the real Galactic Overlord, the ROBOT Daneel Olivaw.  

By Blogger Tom, at Mon Aug 10, 10:59:00 PM:

It's been a while, but...

I vividly remember Asibov writing (perhaps in an intro to the 4th Foundation book in 1982, which succeeded the trilogy by 3 decades) that Asimov himself was troubled by the premise of the original Foundation, namely, that some secret statists could beneficiently dictate to (or at least guide) the rest of us.

Of course, by then Krugman's career was underway...

Tom Maguire  

By Blogger Milton Recht, at Mon Aug 10, 11:31:00 PM:

1978 paper by Paul Krugman about the economics of Interstellar Trade.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/18418804/Interstellar-Trade  

By Blogger Joseph, at Tue Aug 11, 12:56:00 AM:

The Foundation--Al Qaida connection should not be surprising. The career of Mohammed is easier to understand if you think of him as a 7th-century Hari Seldon, trying to create a system that would lead to a Second Empire...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Aug 11, 06:51:00 AM:

Obama and the Mule? Hmm, lessee, the Mule was psychic between the ears and sterile between the legs. Obama has kids...  

By Blogger Michael, at Tue Aug 11, 01:21:00 PM:

The Foundation series was fun, but in the end the final outcome was up to the individual. Here's what we really need in the here and now. Unfotrunately, this, in the end, may be the only way.

Dear people, wherever you may be,

I've just finished rereading Atlas Shrugged for the third time. The first two times (a long time ago) I applied its lessons to the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. Now Ayn Rand's work seems more pertinent than ever due the events unfolding in my homeland.

The reason I say my homeland is because I'm an expatriate American English teacher living in South Korea. I've been living and working in the ROK for twelve years, but I still send in my absentee ballot for presidential elections every four years.

What I've been seeing taking place in the USA since January 20 is making me more upset by the day. The mounting deficits, the growing and dangerous dependence on China (many South Koreans are very jittery about China) to finance those deficits, the talk of instituting new (VAT and a big one at that) taxes to help cover those very same deficits, the bailouts of GM, and particularly Chrysler, the attempt to remove choice and private enterprise from the U.S. health care system, the stimulus that went mostly to government drones rather things that would really stimulate, and above all, the despicable behavior of the mainstream media in covering up Obama's real Chicago background. I had to go and find the red star at the top of William Ayers website all by myself!

All these things have made me very alarmed concerning the future of my country. So I've reached one overriding conclusion: it's time for Americans to revolt against royal authority for the second time in 234 years.

I say this because I don't believe the traditional legislative process can stop my country's slide towards the comfortable euthanasia of West European-style socialism. With the idiocy of Bush to guide them, the Republicans have done a very creditable job of taking Dirty Harry's 357. and pointing it at least at their feet, if not their heads.

So it's time to revolt. This will be a difficult idea for many Americans to grasp. After all, we are the product of a culture that has been based on the rule of law from its very beginnings back in medieval England.

What I'm talking about is starving the Government Beast. Come next April 15, 2010 don't send in your tax forms. Refuse to pay! If you're a small businessman don't pay your state (If you live in California, New York, or New Jersey, this applies especially to you) or federal business taxes. Don't pay your licensing fees! When the Bush tax cuts expire in 2011, don't file! Simply don't feed the Beast!

If you're worried about prosecution, there's safety in numbers. If ten million Americans refuse to pay, the looters can't possibly oppress more than a very small number of people. If ten million small business people refuse to knuckle under to the New Jealously Class, then the Beast will be truly crippled and will be forced to beg for mercy. View your refusal to pay blackmail to the looters as a civil rights issue along the lines of what inspired Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and the early 1960s. IT IS NOT YOUR PATRIOTIC DUTY TO PAY HIGHER TAXES! In fact, it can be considered a form of treason to file on April 15, 2010.

Anyway, this has happened before. What most Americans don't remember or never learned is that in the run-up to the American Revolution the British backed down twice over the issue of taxes. Parliament repealed both the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts in the face of fierce colonial protests. Remember, the looters don't have the mighty Royal Navy behind them, or ranks of hard fighting British Grenadiers, all they have in their favor is the willingness to submit of a people who have been comfortable for far too long.

If you don't think this is true wacky, PASS IT ON!!!!!!

TANSTAAFL!!!

Michael G. Gallagher, Ph.D.
Seoul, Korea  

By Blogger Michael, at Tue Aug 11, 01:22:00 PM:

The Foundation series was fun, but in the end the final outcome was up to the individual. Here's what we really need in the here and now. Unfotrunately, this, in the end, may be the only way.

Dear people, wherever you may be,

I've just finished rereading Atlas Shrugged for the third time. The first two times (a long time ago) I applied its lessons to the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. Now Ayn Rand's work seems more pertinent than ever due the events unfolding in my homeland.

The reason I say my homeland is because I'm an expatriate American English teacher living in South Korea. I've been living and working in the ROK for twelve years, but I still send in my absentee ballot for presidential elections every four years.

What I've been seeing taking place in the USA since January 20 is making me more upset by the day. The mounting deficits, the growing and dangerous dependence on China (many South Koreans are very jittery about China) to finance those deficits, the talk of instituting new (VAT and a big one at that) taxes to help cover those very same deficits, the bailouts of GM, and particularly Chrysler, the attempt to remove choice and private enterprise from the U.S. health care system, the stimulus that went mostly to government drones rather things that would really stimulate, and above all, the despicable behavior of the mainstream media in covering up Obama's real Chicago background. I had to go and find the red star at the top of William Ayers website all by myself!

All these things have made me very alarmed concerning the future of my country. So I've reached one overriding conclusion: it's time for Americans to revolt against royal authority for the second time in 234 years.

I say this because I don't believe the traditional legislative process can stop my country's slide towards the comfortable euthanasia of West European-style socialism. With the idiocy of Bush to guide them, the Republicans have done a very creditable job of taking Dirty Harry's 357. and pointing it at least at their feet, if not their heads.

So it's time to revolt. This will be a difficult idea for many Americans to grasp. After all, we are the product of a culture that has been based on the rule of law from its very beginnings back in medieval England.

What I'm talking about is starving the Government Beast. Come next April 15, 2010 don't send in your tax forms. Refuse to pay! If you're a small businessman don't pay your state (If you live in California, New York, or New Jersey, this applies especially to you) or federal business taxes. Don't pay your licensing fees! When the Bush tax cuts expire in 2011, don't file! Simply don't feed the Beast!

If you're worried about prosecution, there's safety in numbers. If ten million Americans refuse to pay, the looters can't possibly oppress more than a very small number of people. If ten million small business people refuse to knuckle under to the New Jealously Class, then the Beast will be truly crippled and will be forced to beg for mercy. View your refusal to pay blackmail to the looters as a civil rights issue along the lines of what inspired Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and the early 1960s. IT IS NOT YOUR PATRIOTIC DUTY TO PAY HIGHER TAXES! In fact, it can be considered a form of treason to file on April 15, 2010.

Anyway, this has happened before. What most Americans don't remember or never learned is that in the run-up to the American Revolution the British backed down twice over the issue of taxes. Parliament repealed both the Stamp Act and the Townshend Acts in the face of fierce colonial protests. Remember, the looters don't have the mighty Royal Navy behind them, or ranks of hard fighting British Grenadiers, all they have in their favor is the willingness to submit of a people who have been comfortable for far too long.

If you don't think this is true wacky, PASS IT ON!!!!!!

TANSTAAFL!!!

Michael G. Gallagher, Ph.D.
Seoul, Korea  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Aug 12, 11:22:00 AM:

I just want to express my appreciation to Milton Recht for citing the Krugman treatise on Intersteller Trade, complete with fascinating theory and calculations and even including a footnote from a future publication, no less! That is one elaborate fraud!

Is it a fraud? Gee whiz, I hope so...  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sat Aug 15, 12:55:00 PM:

David, it's "hijinks" that ensue in movies and books, not hilarity.

I have this on good authority...  

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