Paul Krugman

American economist (born 1953)

Paul Robin Krugman (born February 28, 1953) is an American New Keynesian economist, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times.

Politics determine who has the power, not who has the truth.

Quotes edit

By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet's impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine's.
Do some homework to find out what these people really want. I’m not talking about deeply hidden motives; usually the true goal is in the public domain.
  • If there were an Economist's Creed, it would surely contain the affirmations 'I understand the Principle of Comparative Advantage' and 'I advocate Free Trade'
    • "Is Free Trade Passé?", The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Autumn, 1987)
  • If there is one single area of economics in which path dependence is unmistakable, it is in economic geography – the location of production in space.
    • "History and Industry Location: The Case of the Manufacturing Belt", The American Economic Review, Vol. 81, No. 2, (May, 1991)
  • In the course of describing my formative moment in 1978, I have already implicitly given my four basic rules for research. Let me now state them explicitly, then explain. Here are the rules:

    1. Listen to the Gentiles
    2. Question the question
    3. Dare to be silly
    4. Simplify, simplify

  • I do not mean to say that formal economic analysis is worthless, and that anybody's opinion on economic matters is as good as anyone else's. On the contrary! I am a strong believer in the importance of models, which are to our minds what spear-throwers were to stone age arms: they greatly extend the power and range of our insight. In particular, I have no sympathy for those people who criticize the unrealistic simplifications of model-builders, and imagine that they achieve greater sophistication by avoiding stating their assumptions clearly. The point is to realize that economic models are metaphors, not truth. By all means express your thoughts in models, as pretty as possible (more on that below). But always remember that you may have gotten the metaphor wrong, and that someone else with a different metaphor may be seeing something that you are missing.
  • But the honest truth is that what drives me as an economist is that economics is fun. I think I understand why so many people think that economics is a boring subject, but they are wrong. On the contrary, there is hardly anything I know that is as exciting as finding that the great events that move history, the forces that determine the destiny of empires and the fate of kings, can sometimes be explained, predicted, or even controlled by a few symbols on a printed page. We all want power, we all want success, but the ultimate reward is the simple joy of understanding.
  • If you want a simple model for predicting the unemployment rate in the United States over the next few years, here it is: It will be what Greenspan wants it to be, plus or minus a random error reflecting the fact that he is not quite God.
    • Slate, 6 February 1997; as cited by Orrin Judd at brothersjuddblog, 14 August 2004
  • If economists ruled the world, there would be no need for a World Trade Organization. The economist's case for free trade is essentially a unilateral case- that is, it says that a country serves its own interests by pursuing free trade regardless of what other countries may do.
    • "What should trade negotiators negotiate about?" Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Mar., 1997)
  • It is a bit funny, but also quite sad: Those who preach the doctrine of global glut are tilting at windmills, when there are some real monsters out there that need slaying.
    • "Is Capitalism Too Productive?", Foreign Affairs (September/October 1997)
  • The idea of comparative advantage—with its implication that trade between two nations normally raises the real incomes of both—is, like evolution via natural selection, a concept that seems simple and compelling to those who understand it. Yet anyone who becomes involved in discussions of international trade beyond the narrow circle of academic economists quickly realizes that it must be, in some sense, a very difficult concept indeed.
    • "Ricardo's Difficult Idea," in G. Cook (ed.), Freedom and Trade: The Economics and Politics of International Trade, Volume 2 (1998)
  • There is nothing that plays worse in our culture than seeming to be the stodgy defender of old ideas, no matter how true those ideas may be. Luckily, at this point the orthodoxy of the academic economists is very much a minority position among intellectuals in general; one can seem to be a courageous maverick, boldly challenging the powers that be, by reciting the contents of a standard textbook. It has worked for me!
    • "Ricardo's Difficult Idea"

  • Now I’m not saying that Keynes was right about everything, that we should treat The General Theory as a sort of secular bible - the way that Marxists treat Das Kapital. But the essential truth of Keynes’s big idea - that even the most productive economy can fail if consumers and investors spend too little, that the pursuit of sound money and balanced budgets is sometimes (not always!) folly rather than wisdom - is as evident in today’s world as it was in the 1930s. And in these dangerous days, we ignore or reject that idea at the world economy’s peril.
    • "Why aren't we all Keynesians yet?", Fortune (Aug. 3, 1998)
  • So the story of the baby-sitting co-op is not a mere amusement. If people would only take it seriously—if they could only understand that when great economic issues are at stake, whimsical parables are not a waste of time but the key to enlightenment—it is a story that could save the world.
    • "Baby-Sitting the Economy", Slate (Aug. 13, 1998)
  • Here, then, is a revised version of Marshall's rules: (1) Figure out what you think about an issue, working back and forth among verbal intuition, evidence, and as much math as you need. (2) Stay with it till you are done. (3) Publish the intuition, the math, and the evidence - all three - in an economics journal. (4) But also try to find a way of expressing the idea without the formal apparatus. (5) If you can, publish that where it can do the world some good.
    • "Two Cheers for Formalism", The Economic Journal, Vol. 108, No. 451 (Nov., 1998)
  • In short, the success of macroeconomic activism, in both theory and practice, has made it possible for free market microeconomics to survive--again both in theory and in practice.
    • "Is the Economic Crisis a Crisis for Economics?", Slate (Nov. 13, 1998)
  • The hangover theory, then, turns out to be intellectually incoherent; nobody has managed to explain why bad investments in the past require the unemployment of good workers in the present. Yet the theory has powerful emotional appeal. Usually that appeal is strongest for conservatives, who can't stand the thought that positive action by governments (let alone—horrors!—printing money) can ever be a good idea. Some libertarians extol the Austrian theory, not because they have really thought that theory through, but because they feel the need for some prestigious alternative to the perceived statist implications of Keynesianism. And some people probably are attracted to Austrianism because they imagine that it devalues the intellectual pretensions of economics professors. But moderates and liberals are not immune to the theory's seductive charms—especially when it gives them a chance to lecture others on their failings.
    • "The Hangover Theory", Slate (Dec. 4, 1998)
  • The serious lesson of the antics in Argentina, then, is that the big issues of monetary economics--fixed vs. flexible exchange rates, whether countries should have independent currencies at all--are still wide open. It's an eternal controversy, and not even the pope can resolve it.
    • "Don't Laugh at Me, Argentina", Slate (July 20, 1999)
  • So you can take your pick as to which Mundell you prefer; but the Nobel committee basically honored Mundell the younger, the economist who was iconoclastic enough to imagine that Canada, of all places, was the economy of the future--and was right.
    • "O Canada", Slate (October 19, 1999)
  • The whole subject of the liquidity trap has a sort of Alice-through-the-looking glass quality. Virtues like saving, or a central bank known to be strongly committed to price stability, become vices; to get out of the trap a country must loosen its belt, persuade its citizens to forget about the future, and convince the private sector that the government and central bank aren’t as serious and austere as they seem.
    • "Thinking About the Liquidity Trap", Journal of the Japanese and International Economies (2000)
  • There is no economic policy. That's really important to say. The general modus operandi of the Bushies is that they don't make policies to deal with problems. They use problems to justify things they wanted to do anyway. So there is no policy to deal with the lack of jobs. There really isn't even a policy to deal with terrorism. It's all about how can we spin what's happening out there to do what we want to do.
    • When asked to define the economic policy of the Bush administration in a BuzzFlash interview, 11 September 2003
  • ...Exxon Mobil is a worse environmental villain than other big oil companies...Exxon, headed by Mr. Raymond, chose a different course of action: it decided to fight the science....And that's just what Exxon Mobil has done: lavish grants have supported a sort of alternative intellectual universe of global warming skeptics....the fact is that whatever small chance there was of action to limit global warming became even smaller because ExxonMobil chose to protect its profits by trashing good science.
  • It’s a tribute to the importance of Friedman’s work that questions about his legacy bear so directly on contemporary policy issues. But for that reason it’s also important not to engage in hagiography. Friedman was a great economist, but like every other great economist in history, he was also wrong about some important things.
    • Response to Nelson and Schwartz, Journal of Monetary Economics 55 (2008)
  • Whether the influence of increasing returns on trade and geography is rising or falling, one thing is clear: much was learned from the intellectual revolution that brought increasing returns into the heart of how we think about the world economy. It wasn't just that economists could make sense of previously puzzling data, we found ourselves able to see things that had previously been in an intellectual blind spot. Many people contributed to this process of enlightenment; I'm proud to have been a part of the journey.
    • "The Increasing Returns Revolution in Trade and Geography", The American Economic Review (Jun., 2009)
  • So let’s bid a not at all fond farewell to the Big Zero — the decade in which we achieved nothing and learned nothing.
    • "The Big Zero", The New York Times (27th December, 2009)
  • I know that when I look at today’s Mexicans and Central Americans, they seem to me fundamentally the same as my grandparents seeking a better life in America. On the other side, however, open immigration can’t coexist with a strong social safety net; if you’re going to assure health care and a decent income to everyone, you can’t make that offer global. So Democrats have mixed feelings about immigration; in fact, it’s an agonizing issue.
  • … politics determine who has the power, not who has the truth.
    • The Australian Financial Review, 6 September 2010, p. 15, "Time for Obama to abandon caution". Also seen in the Sacramento Bee [1]
  • It’s a great honour to be asked to give this talk, especially because I’m arguably not qualified to do so. I am, after all, not a Keynes scholar, nor any kind of serious intellectual historian. Nor have I spent most of my career doing macroeconomics. Until the late 1990s my contributions to that field were limited to international issues; although I kept up with macro research, I avoided getting into the frontline theoretical and empirical disputes.
  • If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and really inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months. … There was a Twilight Zone episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time, we don't need it, we need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.
    • on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS", August 21, 2011. [2]
  • ...and Newt [Gingrich] — although somebody said "he’s a stupid man’s idea of what a smart person sounds like," but he is more plausible than the other guys that they’ve been pushing up.
  • International trade in goods and services has expanded steadily over the past six decades thanks to declines in shipping and communication costs, globally negotiated reductions in government trade barriers, the widespread outsourcing of production activities, and a greater awareness of foreign cultures and products. New and better communications technologies, notably the Internet, have revolutionized the way people in all countries obtain and exchange information.
    • Paul R. Krugman, Maurice Obstfeld, and Marc J. Melitz, International Economics: Theory & Policy, 9th edition (2012)
  • More than four years after the financial crisis began, the world's major advanced economies remain deeply depressed, in a scene all too reminiscent of the 1930s. And the reason is simple: we are relying on the same ideas that governed policy in the 1930s. These ideas, long since disproved, involve profound errors both about the causes of the crisis, its nature, and the appropriate response.

    These errors have taken deep root in public consciousness and provide the public support for the excessive austerity of current fiscal policies in many countries. So the time is ripe for a Manifesto in which mainstream economists offer the public a more evidence-based analysis of our problems.

    • Paul Krugman and Richard Layard, "A Manifesto for Economic Sense" (June 27, 2012)
  • This is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is of course the opposite of what is usual in economics.
    • Of his paper "The Theory of Interstellar Trade"; quoted in The Economist, 26 October 2013, p. 86
  • When the economy is in a depression, scarcity ceases to rule. Productive resources sit idle, so that it is possible to have more of some things without having less of others; free lunches are all around. As a result, all the usual rules of economics are stood on their head; we enter a looking-glass world in which virtue is vice and prudence is folly. Thrift hurts our future prospects; sound money makes us poorer. Moreover, that's the kind of world we have been living in for the past several years, which means that it is a kind of world that students should understand. […] Depression economics is marked by paradoxes, in which seemingly virtuous actions have perverse, harmful effects. Two paradoxes in particular stand out: the paradox of thrift, in which the attempt to save more actually leads to the nation as a whole saving less, and the less-well-known paradox of flexibility, in which the willingness of workers to protect their jobs by accepting lower wages actually reduces total employment. […] In times of depression, the rules are different. Conventionally sound policy – balanced budgets, a firm commitment to price stability – helps to keep the economy depressed. Once again, this is not normal. Most of the time we are not in a depression. But sometimes we are – and 2013, when this chapter was written, was one of those times.
    • “Depressions are Different”, in Robert M. Solow, ed. Economics for the Curious: Inside the Minds of 12 Nobel Laureates. 2014.
  • I do not think this is a permanent condition. The craziness comes more from cultural ethnic issues than anything else, because you have a… A lot of the real craziness come from, if you like, from rural White Americans who feel that they’re losing their country, they’re losing ownership of the country. And they are right — we are becoming more diverse, more multicultural. And in the end, they are they…they…they are not the future. In the end, the power they still have will go away. But it’s a very difficult time until then. So the future is Mayor Deblasio of New York, but Ted Cruz is still out there with the ability to do a lot of damage.

Peddling Prosperity (1994) edit

  • Economics is harder than physics; luckily it is not quite as hard as sociology. Why is economics such a hard subject? Part of the answer has to do with complexity. The economy cannot be put in a box. [...] Another reason economics is hard is that the critical sociologist is right: it involves human beings, who do not behave in simple, mechanical ways.
    • Preface
  • As the example of Ronald Reagan shows, real political success comes not simply from appealing to the interests that people currently perceive but from finding ways to redefine their perceived interests, to harness their discontent in favor of changes that you can lead.
    • Introduction: Looking for Magicians
  • Why did the magic economy go away? Hundreds of books have been written on that topic. This isn't one of them ― although I'll devote part of a chapter to some plausible stories and take a number of stabs at the issue along the way. But let me cut to the chase: the real answer is that we don't know. There are a lot of stories out there. Most of them, including the ones that have achieved the widest currency, are dead wrong on logical or factual grounds. There are some less popular stories that could be right ― but if you are honest with yourself, you will admit that nobody, yourself included, knows which if any of these stories actually is right.
    • Introduction: Looking for Magicians
  • Where do ideas about economics come from? They come, of course from economists—where by an "economist" I mean someone who thinks and writes regularly about economic issues. But not all economists are alike, and in fact the genus includes two radically distinct species: The professors and the policy entrepreneurs.
    • Introduction: Looking for Magicians
  • No, the problem that the politicians have with the professors is not one of failure to communicate; it is one of failure to say what politicians want (need) to hear, especially when they are trying to seize power from other politicians. And necessity is the mother of invention: a different group, the policy entrepreneurs, has arisen to fill the gap.
    • Introduction: Looking for Magicians
  • There are many economic puzzles, but there are only two really great mysteries.
    One of these mysteries is why economic growth takes places at different rates over time and across countries. Nobody really knows why the U.S. economy could generate 3 percent annual productivity growth before 1973 but only 1 percent afterward, nobody really knows why Japan surged from defeat to global economic power after World War II, while Britain slid slowly into third-rate status. At any given time there are always policy entrepreneurs willing to claim that they have all the answers, but we'll come to that story in later chapters.
    The other mystery is the reason why there is a business cycle ― the irregular rhythm of recessions and recoveries that prevents economic growth from being a smooth trend. It was in challenging the orthodox, Keynesian view of business cycles that conservatives first forced a major rethinking of economics.
    • Ch. 1 : The Attack on Keynes
  • The phenomenon of recessions puzzled many economists in the early years of this century, and led many of them produce their worst work. Thorstein Veblen went from his brilliant Theory of the Leisure Class to write a really terrible book (The Engineers and the Price System) purporting to explain economic slumps. Joseph Schumpeter, whose magnificent vision of the "creative destruction" inherent in capitalist growth continues to inspire many economists, wrote a turgid, almost meaningless two-volume study, Business Cycles. Marxists gleefully seized upon the biggest recession of all, the Great Depression of the 1930s, as evidence of the irrationality of capitalism; yet they never offered a good explanation of why and how such things happen, just assurances that socialism would cure them.
    It fells to the British economist John Maynard Keynes to provide a clear story about what happens during a recession, and some useful advice about how to get out of one.
    • Ch. 1 : The Attack on Keynes
  • The usual and basic Keynesian answer to recessions is a monetary expansion. But Keynes worried that even this might sometimes not be enough, particularly if a recession had been allowed to get out of hand and become a true depression. Once the economy is deeply depressed, households and especially firms may be unwilling to increase spending no matter how much cash they have, they may simply add any monetary expansion to their board. Such a situation, in which monetary policy has become ineffective, has come to be known as a "liquidity trap"; Keynes believed that the British and American economies had entered such a trap by the mid-1930s, and some economists believed that the United States was on the edge of such a tap in 1992.
    The Keynesian answer to a liquidity trap is for the government to do what the private sector will not: spend. When monetary expansion is ineffective, fiscal expansion—such as public works programs financed by borrowing—must take its place. Such a fiscal expansion can break the vicious circle of low spending and low incomes, "priming the pump: and getting the economy moving again. But remember that this is not by any means an all-purpose policy recommendation; it is essentially a strategy of desperation, a dangerous drug to be prescribed only when the usual over-the-counter remedy of monetary policy has failed.
    • Ch. 1 : The Attack on Keynes
  • Like any major intellectual contribution, Keynes's ideas were bitterly criticized. To many people it seems obvious that massive economic slumps must have deep roots. To them, Keynes's argument that they are essentially no more than a problem of mixed signals, which can be cured by printing a bit more money, seems unbelievable.
    • Ch. 1 : The Attack on Keynes
  • The first stage of Friedman's attack on Keynes was his effective thought somewhat slippery critique of the idea that monetary and fiscal policy can be actively used to smooth out the business cycle. Friedman argued that such active policy is not only unnecessary but actually harmful, worsening the very economic instability that it is supposed to correct, and should be replaced by simple, mechanical monetary rules. This is the doctrine that came to be known as "monetarism."
    • Ch. 1 : The Attack on Keynes
  • On the whole, the monetarism for which Friedman first became famous seems clever, brilliantly argued, but shallow ― and perhaps even a bit disingenuous. Friedman's writings from that period have the feel of a smart man who knows what be wants to believe looking hard for supporting arguments. And I think it is fair to say that up until the late 1960s Friedman and his followers, while influential, were regarded by many of their colleagues as faintly disreputable.
    • Ch. 1 : The Attack on Keynes
  • Milton Friedman was not surprised. In 1968, in one of the decisive intellectual achievements of postwar economics, Friedman not only showed why the apparent tradeoff embodied in the idea of the Phillips curve was wrong; he also predicted the emergence of combined inflation and high unemployment, which Paul Samuelson dubbed "stagflation."
    • Ch. 1 : The Attack on Keynes
  • Feldstein pointed out that throughout the tax system inflation was turning tolerable paper tax rates into very high effective rates. Corporations, for example, were supposed to pay a tax rate of 42 percent on their profits. Feldstein calculated, however, that when the effects of inflation were taken into account, the true tax on any profits from investing in equipment was more like 75 percent.
    You don't need to be a Republican to accept that tax rates this high might discourage investment and hurt economic growth. But was the interaction between inflation and investment really a major villain in America's economic difficulties? There the evidence was less clear.
    • Ch. 2 : Taxes, Regulation, and Growth
  • By 1980, the work of Feldstein, Boskin, Summers, and others had convinced many economists that U.S. taxes were in fact a significant obstacle to investment. Nor was this all: another major U.S. policy, the Social Security system, was also discouraging saving and investment.
    • Ch. 2 : Taxes, Regulation, and Growth
  • In the world of politics, however, the actual content of an academic movement may be less important than the way it affects the tone of the discussion. During the 1970s there was a growing public sense of disillusionment with government, which first fed grass-roots tax revolts in California and Massachusetts, then helped elect Ronald Reagan. And there was also a determined effort by a few extremely conservative journalists and politicians to promote radical tax-cutting plans. No matter how careful the research of conservative public finance theorists like Martin Feldstein might be, in that political climate it was inevitable that it would be widely seen as basically confirming popular prejudices. There was a huge intellectual gulf between Feldstein or Boskin and the sweeping claims of Arthur Laffer; but in the public mind, they were in effect allies.
    • Ch. 2 : Taxes, Regulation, and Growth
  • In a way, the worst sin of the conservatives was that of hypocrisy. They proclaimed growth as their objective, offered it as the answer to all problems, all while following policies that actually inhibited that growth at least a bit. At the end of the day, however, the most striking fact is how little happened to U.S. long-term growth, good or bad, on their watch.
    • Ch. 4 : Growth
  • In the court of conventional wisdom, Ronald Reagan stands accused of inflicting a huge burden of debt upon his country. He cut taxes on the rich, increased military spending, and failed to cut enough spending elsewhere to pay for his largesse. The result was a string of unprecedented peacetime deficits, and a debt that will be a drag on the national standard of living for decades to come.
    Reagan is guilty as charged. The supply-side apologists' claim that some extraordinary economic success vindicates Reaganomics in spite of the deficits just doesn't hold up in the face of the evidence. The question, however, is whether the crime was a felony or a misdemeanor.
    The answer proposed here will not satisfy those with a taste for drama. Reagan created a deficit, and it hurt American economic growth. But even if the effects of the visible deficit are supplemented with appeals to several alleged hidden deficits of the 1980s, the cost was not catastrophic. The deficit is not nearly the monster some people imagine.
    • Ch. 6 : The Budget Deficit
  • The new trade theory picture of the world looks something like this: Each country has, at any given time, a set of broad resources—land, skilled labor, capital, climate, general technological competence. These resources define up to a point the industries in which the country can hope to be competitive on world markets. [...] But a country's resources do not fully determine what it produces, because the detailed pattern of advantage reflects the self-reinforcing virtuous circles, set in motion by the vagaries of history.
    • Ch. 9 : The Economics of QWERTY
  • It's tempting to give up—either to retreat to the ivory tower, or to start to play the policy entrepreneur game. After all, what is the use of sophisticated policy thinking or careful examination of the facts if simplistic ideas win every time?
    One answer is simply that it would be wrong to give up. If the people with good ideas do not fight for them, they have no right to complain about the outcome.
    But good ideas will still often lose to convenient nonsense. When that happens, every serious economist is ultimately sustained by a faith that the right ideas will eventually prevail.
    • Epilogue

Development, Geography, and Economic Theory (1995) edit

  • Economists, like everyone, have their political biases, but these are by no means as strong an influence on what they are willing to consider as you might think. For example, one might have thought that strongly liberal economists like, say, James Tobin would be at least mildly sympathetic to the views of radical economists who draw their inspiration from Marx, or of heterodox economic thinkers like Galbraith. After all, in such fields as history and sociology the Marxist or post-Marxist left has long received a respectful hearing. And yet you don't find this happening: liberal economists are almost as quick as their conservative colleagues to condemn heterodox leftist ideas as foolish it was the liberal Robert Solow, not Milton Friedman, who defended orthodoxy in the bitter "capital controversy" with British radicals.
    • Ch. 1. The Fall and Rise of Development Economics
  • Consider John Kenneth Galbraith or Lester Thurow, both leading economists in the view of the general public, both with all the formal qualifications, both totally ignored by the academic mainstream. Or consider Robert Mundell, who is still revered for his contributions to international monetary theory, yet whose later incarnation as the father of supply-side economics has similarly been ignored.
    • Ch. 1. The Fall and Rise of Development Economics
  • In the last few years it has become apparent that during the 1940s and 1950s, a core of ideas emerged regarding external economies, strategic complementarity, and economic development that remains intellectually valid and may continue to have practical applications. This set of ideas which I will refer to as "high development theory" — anticipated in a number of ways the cutting edge of modern trade and growth theory. But these ideas have had to be rediscovered. Between 1960 and 1980 high development theory was virtually buried, essentially because the founders of development economics failed to make their points with sufficient analytical clarity to communicate their essence to other economists, and perhaps even to each other. Only recently have changes in economics made it possible to reconsider what the development theorists said, and to regain the valuable ideas that have been lost.
    • Ch. 1. The Fall and Rise of Development Economics
  • A casual reading of the development literature suggests that there is a dividing line circa 1960. Before 1960 writers on development generally assumed as a matter of course that economies of scale were a limiting factor on the ability to profitably establish industries in less developed countries, and that in the presence of such economies of scale pecuniary external economies assume real welfare significance. They seem, however, to have been unaware of the degree to which economies of scale raise problems for explicit modeling of competition, and/or of the extent to which the drive for formalism was pushing economics toward explicit models.
    After 1960, by contrast, economists working on development had been trained in the formalism of constant-returns general equilibrium, and did not so much reject the possibility that economies of scale might matter as simply fail to notice it.
    • Ch. 1. The Fall and Rise of Development Economics
  • In this part of the lecture I have argued that a number of works in development economics written during the 1950s contained, more or less explicitly and more or less self-consciously, a theory in which strategic complementarity played a key role in development: external economies arose from a circular relationship in which the decision to invest in large-scale production depended on the size of the market, and the size of the market depended on the decision to invest. Whatever the practical relevance of this theory, it made perfectly good logical sense. Yet this development theory was subsequently abandoned, to such an extent that classic papers in the field began to seem, as the physicist Wolfgang Pauli used to say, "not even wrong" — simply incomprehensible.
    • Ch. 1. The Fall and Rise of Development Economics
  • From the point of view of a modern economist, the most striking feature of the works of high development theory is their adherence to a discursive, nonmathematical style. Economics has, of course, become vastly more mathematical over time. Nonetheless, development economics was archaic in style even for its own time. Of the four most famous high development works, Rosenstein-Rodan's was approximately contemporary with Samuelson's formulation of the Heckscher-Ohlin model, while Lewis, Myrdal, and Hirschman were all roughly contemporary with Solow's initial statement of growth theory.
    This lack of formality was not because development economists were peculiarly mathematically incapable. Hirschman made a significant contribution to the formal theory of devaluation in the 1940s, while Fleming helped create the still influential Mundell-Fleming model of floating exchange rates. Moreover, the development field itself was at the same time generating mathematical planning models first Harrod-Domar type growth models, then linear programming approaches that were actually quite technically advanced for their time.
    So why didn't high development theory get expressed in formal models? Almost certainly for one basic reason: the difficulty of reconciling economies of scale with a competitive market structure.
    • Ch. 1. The Fall and Rise of Development Economics
  • The irony, of course, is that high development theory was right. By this I do not mean that the Big Push is really the right story of how development takes place, or even that the issues raised in high development theory are necessarily the key ones for making poor countries rich. What I do mean is that the unconventional themes put forth by the high development theorists their emphasis on strategic complementarity in investment decisions and on the problem of coordination failure — did in fact identify important possibilities that are neglected in competitive equilibrium models. But the high development theorists failed to convince their colleagues of the importance of those possibilities. Worse, they failed even to communicate clearly what they were talking about. And so good ideas, important ideas, were ignored for a generation after they were first enunciated.
    • Ch. 1. The Fall and Rise of Development Economics
  • The history of economic geography of the study of the location of economic activity is more like the story of geological thought about the shapes and location of continents and mountain ranges. The location of production is an obvious feature of the economic world. Indeed, I began to get interested in economics as a schoolchild by looking at those old-fashioned maps of countries that used picturesque symbols to represent economic activity: sheaves of wheat to represent agriculture, little miners' carts to represent resource extraction, little factories to represent industry, and so on. And yet there is almost no spatial analysis in mainstream economics.
    • Ch. 2. Geography Lost and Found
  • So why did spatial issues remain a blind spot for the economic profession? It was not a historical accident: there was something about spatial economics that made it inherently unfriendly terrain for the kind of modeling mainstream economists know how to do. That something was, as you might well guess, the problem of market structure in the face of increasing returns, a problem that is even more acute in economic geography than in development economics. In development the crucial role that high development theory assigned to increasing returns was a hypothesis crucial to that doctrine, but not necessarily crucial to understanding development in general. One could do meaningful theorizing about developing countries, albeit not in the grand tradition, without sacrificing the convenient assumptions of constant returns and perfect competition. In spatial economics, however, you really cannot get started at all without finding a way to deal with scale economies and oligopolistic firms.
    • Ch. 2. Geography Lost and Found
  • So what's the moral? We've seen how the insistence on models that meet the standards of rigor in mainstream economics can lead to neglect of clearly valuable ideas. Does this mean that the whole emphasis on models is wrong? Should we make a major effort to open up economics, to relax our standards about what constitutes an acceptable argument? No—the moral of my tale is nowhere near that easy. Economists can often be remarkably obtuse, failing to see things that are right in front of them. But sometimes a bit of obtuseness is not entirely a bad thing.
    • Ch. 2. Geography Lost and Found
  • Homo economicus is an implausible caricature, but a highly productive one, and no useful alternative has yet been found.
    • Ch. 3. Models and Metaphors
  • Many of those who reject the idea of economic models are ill-informed or even (perhaps unconsciously) intellectually dishonest. Still, there are highly intelligent and objective thinkers who are repelled by simplistic models for a much better reason: they are very aware that the act of building a model involves loss as well as gain.
    • Ch. 3. Models and Metaphors
  • The problem is that there is no alternative to models. We all think in simplified models, all the time. The sophisticated thing to do is not to pretend to stop, but to be self-conscious — to be aware that your models are maps rather than reality.
    • Ch. 3. Models and Metaphors
  • A temporary evolution of ignorance, a period when our insistence on looking in certain directions leaves us unable to see what is right under our noses, may be the price of progress, an inevitable part of what happens when we try to make sense of the world's complexity.
    • Ch. 3. Models and Metaphors

Pop Internationalism (1996) edit

  • Whose fault is the replacement of serious discussion of world trade by what I have come to think of as "pop internationalism"? To some extent, of course, it is the result of basic human instincts: intellectual laziness, even among those who would be seen as wise and deep, will always be a powerful force. To some extent it also reflects the decline in the influence of economists in general: the high prestige of the profession a generation ago had much to do with the presumed effectiveness of Keynesian macroeconomic policies, and has suffered greatly as macroeconomics has dissolved into squabbling factions. And one should not ignore the role of editors, who often prefer what pop internationalists have to say to the disturbingly difficult ideas of people who know how to read national accounts or understand that the trade balance is also the difference between savings and investment. Indeed, some important editors, like James Fallows at The Atlantic or Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect are pop internationalists themselves; they deliberately use their magazines as platforms for what amounts to an anti-intellectual crusade.
    • Introduction of Pop Internationalism (1996)
  • The idea that a country's economic fortunes are largely determined by its success on world markets is a hypothesis, not a necessary truth; and as a practical, empirical matter, that hypothesis is flatly wrong. That is, it is simply not the case that the world's leading nations are to any important degree in economic competition with each other, or that any of their major economic problems can be attributed to failures to compete on world markets.
    • "Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession", Foreign Affairs (March/April 1994)
  • This article makes three points. First, it argues that concerns about competitiveness are, as an empirical matter, almost completely unfounded. Second, it tries to explain why defining the economic problem as one of international competition is nonetheless so attractive to so many people. Finally, it argues that the obsession with competitiveness is not only wrong but dangerous, skewing domestic policies and threatening the international economic system.
    • "Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession", Foreign Affairs (March/April 1994)
  • To make a harsh but not entirely unjustified analogy, a government wedded to the ideology of competitiveness is as unlikely to make good economic policy as a government committed to creationism is to make good science policy, even in areas that have no direct relationship to the theory of evolution.
    • "Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession", Foreign Affairs (March/April 1994)
  • So let's start telling the truth: competitiveness is a meaningless word when applied to national economies. And the obsession with competitiveness is both wrong and dangerous.
    • "Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession", Foreign Affairs (March/April 1994)
  • First, most of the speculation about the superiority of the communist system - including the popular view that Western economies could painlessly accelerate their own growth by borrowing some aspects of that system - was off base. Rapid Soviet economic growth was based entirely on one attribute: the willingness to save, to sacrifice current consumption for the sake of future production. The communist example offered no hint of a free lunch.
    Second, the economic analysis of communist countries' growth implied some future limits to their industrial expansion - in other words, implied that a naive projection of their past growth rates into the future was likely to greatly overstate their real prospects. Economic growth that is based on expansion of inputs, rather than on growth in output per unit of input, is inevitably subject to diminishing returns. It was simply not possible for the Soviet economies to sustain the rates of growth of labor force participation, average education levels, and above all the physical capital stock that had prevailed in previous years. Communist growth would predictably slow down, perhaps drastically.
    • "The Myth of Asia's Miracle", Foreign Affairs (November/December 1994)
  • If growth in East Asia is indeed running into diminishing returns, however, the conventional wisdom about an Asian-centered world economy needs some rethinking.
    • "The Myth of Asia's Miracle", Foreign Affairs (November/December 1994)
  • That's a hard answer to accept, especially for those American policy intellectuals who recoil from the dreary task of reducing deficits and raising the national savings rate. But economics is not a dismal science because the economists like it that way; it is because in the end we must submit to the tyranny not just of the numbers, but of the logic they express.
    • "The Myth of Asia's Miracle", Foreign Affairs (November/December 1994)

The Self-Organizing Economy (1996) edit

  • In this book I try to show how models of self-organization can be applied to many economic phenomena - how the principle of "order from instability," which explains the growth of hurricanes and embryos, can also explain the formation of cities and business cycles; how the principle of "order from random growth" can explain the strangely simple rules that describe the sizes of earth quakes, meteorites, and metropolitan areas. I believe that the ideas of self-organization theory can add substantially to our understanding of the economy; whatever their ultimate usefulness, these ideas are very exciting, and playing around with them is tremendous fun.
    • Preface
  • The world is full of self-organizing systems, systems that form structures not merely in response to inputs from outside but also, indeed primarily, in response to their own internal logic. Global weather is a self-organizing system; so, surely, is the global economy.
    • Chapter 9. Concluding Thoughts

The Age of Diminished Expectations (1990; 1994; 1997) edit

  • There are three kinds of writing in economics: Greek-letter, up-and-down, and airport. Greek-letter writing formal, theoretical, mathematical is how professors communicate. Like any academic field, economics has its fair share of hacks and phonies, who use complicated language to hide the banality of their ideas; it also contains profound thinkers, who use the specialized language of the discipline as an efficient way to express deep insights. [...] Up-and-down economics is what one encounters on the business pages of newspapers, or for that matter on TV. It is preoccupied with the latest news and the latest numbers, hence its name. [...] Finally, airport economics is the language of economics bestsellers. These books are most prominently displayed at airport bookstores, where the delayed business traveler is likely to buy them. Most of these books predict disaster: a new great depression, the evisceration of our economy by Japanese multinationals, the collapse of our money. A minority have the opposite view, a boundless optimism: new technology or supply-side economics is about to lead us into an era of unprecedented economic progress. Whether pessimistic or optimistic, airport economics is usually fun, rarely well informed, and never serious.
    • Preface
  • Productivity isn't everything, but in the long run it is almost everything. A country's ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.
    • Chapter 1: Productivity Growth. Page 11.

The Accidental Theorist: And Other Dispatches From The Dismal Science (1998) edit

  • The appeal to the intellectually insecure is also more important than it might seem. Because economics touches so much of life, everyone wants to have an opinion. Yet the kind of economics covered in the textbooks is a technical subject that many people find hard to follow. How reassuring, then, to be told that it is all irrelevant -- that all you really need to know are a few simple ideas! Quite a few supply-siders have created for themselves a wonderful alternative intellectual history in which John Maynard Keynes was a fraud, Paul Samuelson and even Milton Friedman are fools, and the true line of deep economic thought runs from Adam Smith through obscure turn-of-the-century Austrians straight to them.
  • The legend of King Midas has been generally misunderstood. Most people think the curse that turned everything the old miser touched into gold, leaving him unable to eat or drink, was a lesson in the perils of avarice. But Midas’s true sin was his failure to understand monetary economics. What the gods were really telling him is that gold is just a metal. If it sometimes seems to be more, that is only because society has found it convenient to use gold as a medium of exchange—a bridge between other, truly desirable, objects. There are other possible mediums of exchange, and it is silly to imagine that this pretty, but only moderately useful, substance has some irreplaceable significance.
    • "The Gold Bug Variations", Originally published in Slate (Nov. 23, 1996)

Fuzzy Math: The Essential Guide to the Bush Tax Plan (2001) edit

  • Will the tax cut destroy America’s prosperity? Probably not. As Adam Smith observed, there’s a deal of ruin in a nation. We have a huge, resilient economy that can survive and recover from even quite bad government policies.
    Yet while the tax cut may not be a matter of economic life or death, it is a very serious issue. For one thing, like it or not, the tax cut has become the central political issue in the United States right now. Conservatives who want to reshape America view passage of a large tax cut as a first step toward realizing their vision. For that reason, those who do not share this vision feel, rightly, that they must oppose the plan.
    • Introduction

The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century (2003) edit

Main article: The Great Unraveling

The Conscience of a Liberal (2007) edit

  • To be a progressive, then, means being a partisan—at least for now. The only way a progressive agenda can be enacted is if Democrats have both the presidency and a large enough majority in Congress to overcome Republican opposition. And achieving that kind of political preponderance will require leadership that makes opponents of the progressive agenda pay a political price for their obstructionism—leadership that, like FDR, welcomes the hatred of the interest groups trying to prevent us from making our society better.
    • Ch. 13. The Conscience of a Liberal
  • I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal, and I’m proud of it.

The Return of Depression Economics and The Crisis of 2008 (2009) edit

  • Most economists, to the extent that they think about the subject at all, regard the Great Depression of the 1930s as a gratuitous, unnecessary tragedy.
    • Introduction
  • The kind of economic trouble that Asia experienced a decade ago, and that we're all experiencing now, is precisely the sort of thing we thought we had learned to prevent. In the bad old days big, advanced economies with stable governments-like Britain in the 1920s-might have had no answer to prolonged periods of stagnation and deflation; but between John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman, we thought we knew enough to keep that from happening again.
    • Introduction
  • At the time, I thought of it this way: it was as if bacteria that used to cause deadly plagues, but had long been considered conquered by modem medicine, had reemerged in a form resistant to all the standard antibiotics. Here's what I wrote in the introduction to the first edition: "So far only a limited number of people have actually fallen prey to the newly incurable strains; but even those of us who have so far been lucky would be foolish not to seek new cures, new prophylactic regimens, whatever it takes, lest we tum out to be the next victims." Well, we were foolish. And now the plague is upon us.
    • Introduction
  • For the first time since 1917, then, we live in a world in which property rights and free markets are viewed as fundamental principles, not grudging expedients; where the unpleasant aspects of a market system—inequality, unemployment, injustice—are accepted as facts of life. As in the Victorian era, capitalism is secure not only because of its successes—which, as we will see in a moment, have been very real—but because nobody has a plausible alternative.
    This situation will not last forever. Surely there will be other ideologies, other dreams; and they will emerge sooner rather than later if the current economic crisis persists and deepens. But for now capitalism rules the world unchallenged.
    • Chap. 1 : “The Central Problem Has Been Solved”
  • In retrospect it is also clear that we gave far too much credit to “Washington,” to the IMF and the Treasury. It was true that they had acted courageously and decisively, and that the results had been a vindication. But on close examination the omens were not all that good for a repeat performance. For one thing, the mobilization of money was achieved through what amounted to a legal sleight of hand, justified mainly by the special significance of Mexico to U.S. interests. Money would not come as quickly or as easily in later crises. The Mexican rescue was also made less complicated by the cooperation of the Mexican government: Zedillo’s people had no pride to swallow—not with Mexico’s history—and were in complete agreement with Washington about what needed to be done. Dealing with Asian countries that had been accustomed to negotiating from a position of strength, and with Asian leaders accustomed to having things their own way, would be very different.
    Perhaps most of all, we failed to understand the extent to which both Mexico and Washington simply got lucky. The rescue wasn’t really a well-considered plan that addressed the essence of the crisis: it was an emergency injection of cash to a beleaguered government, which did its part by adopting painful measures less because they were clearly related to the economic problems than because by demonstrating the government’s seriousness they might restore market confidence. They succeeded, albeit only after the economy had been punished severely, but there was no good reason to suppose that such a strategy would work the next time.
    • Chap. 2 : Warning Ignored: Latin America’s Crises
  • Indeed, there has long been a strand of thought that says that moderate inflation may be necessary if monetary policy is to be able to fight recessions. Still, advocates of inflation have had to contend with a deep-seated sense that stable prices are always desirable, that to promote inflation is to create perverse and dangerous incentives. This belief in the importance of price stability is not based on standard economic models—on the contrary, the usual textbook theory, when applied to Japan’s unusual circumstances, points directly to inflation as the natural solution. But conventional economic theory and conventional economic wisdom are not always the same thing—a conflict that would become increasingly apparent as one country after another found itself having to make hard choices in the face of financial crisis.
    • Chap. 3 : Japan’s Trap
  • Were the Asian economies more vulnerable to financial panic in 1997 than they had been, say, five or ten years before? Yes, surely—but not because of crony capitalism, or indeed what would usually be considered bad government policies. Rather, they had become more vulnerable partly because they had opened up their financial markets—because they had, in fact, become better free-market economies, not worse. And they had also grown vulnerable because they had taken advantage of their new popularity with international lenders to run up substantial debts to the outside world. These debts intensified the feedback from loss of confidence to financial collapse and back again, making the vicious circle of crisis more intense. It wasn’t that the money was badly spent; some of it was, some of it wasn’t. It was that the new debts, unlike the old ones, were in dollars—and that turned out to be the economies’ undoing.
    • Chap. 4 : Asia’s Crash
  • Here’s what the IMF did: In Asia (as opposed to Brazil, which as I said was a sort of caricature of the Asian programs) it did not tell countries to defend the values of their currencies at all cost. But it did tell them to raise interest rates, initially to very high levels, in an attempt to persuade investors to keep their money in place. Some vociferous critics of the IMF—most notably Harvard’s Jeffrey Sachs—said that this was very much the wrong thing to do. Sachs believed, in effect, that Asian countries could and should have behaved like Australia, simply letting their currencies decline until they started to look cheap to investors, and that if they had done so, the great slump would never have happened.
    What the IMF said in response is that Asia is not Australia: that to let the currencies fall unchecked would have led to “hyperdevaluations,” and that the result would have been both massive financial distress (because so many businesses had debt denominated in dollars) and soaring inflation. The trouble with this rationale is, of course, that the massive financial distress happened anyway, thanks to high interest rates and the recession they helped cause. So the IMF at best avoided one vicious circle only by starting another.
    • Chap. 5 : Policy Perversity
  • It is important to realize that even now Fed officials are not quite sure how they pulled this rescue off. At the height of the crisis it seemed entirely possible that cutting interest rates would be entirely ineffectual—after all, if nobody can borrow, what difference does it make what the price would be if they could? And if everyone had believed that the world was coming to an end, their panic might—as in so many other countries—have ended up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. In retrospect Greenspan seemed to have been like a general who rides out in front of his demoralized army waves his sword and shouts encouragement, and somehow turns the tide of battle: well done, but not something you would want to count on working next time.
    • Chap. 6 : Masters of the Universe
  • As I’ve just noted, Greenspan warned about irrational exuberance, but he didn’t do anything about it. And in fact, the Fed chairman holds what I believe is a unique record among central bankers: he presided over not one but two enormous asset bubbles, first in stocks, then in housing.
    • Chap. 7 : Greenspan’s Bubbles
  • But this warning was ignored, and there was no move to extend regulation. On the contrary, the spirit of the times—and the ideology of the George W. Bush administration—was deeply antiregulation. This attitude was symbolized by a photo-op held in 2003, in which representatives of the various agencies that play roles in bank oversight used pruning shears and a chainsaw to cut up stacks of regulations. More concretely, the Bush administration used federal power, including obscure powers of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, to block state-level efforts to impose some oversight on subprime lending.
    • Chap. 8 : Banking in the Shadows
  • We will not achieve the understanding we need, however, unless we are willing to think clearly about our problems and to follow those thoughts wherever they lead. Some people say that our economic problems are structural, with no quick cure available; but I believe that the only important structural obstacles to world prosperity are the obsolete doctrines that clutter the minds of men.
    • Chap. 10 : The Return of Depression Economics

Economics (4th ed., 2015) edit

Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, Economics (4th ed., 2015)

  • Many of the stories economists tell take the form of models—for whatever else they are, economic models are stories about how the world works.
    • Preface
  • As is often the case with major disputes in economics, the argument over fiscal policy went on for years, with some critics of fiscal policy still defending their position when this book went to press. It seems fair, however, to say that among economists a more or less Keynesian view of the effects of fiscal policy came to prevail. Careful statistical studies at the International Monetary Fund and else where showed that austerity policies have historically been followed by contraction, not expansion. Recent experience, in which countries like Spain and Greece that were forced into severe austerity also experienced severe slumps, seemed to confirm that observation. Furthermore, it was clear that those who had predicted a sharp rise in U.S. interest rates due to budget deficits, leading to conventional crowding out, had been wrong: U.S. long-term interest rates remained near record lows even during the years from 2009 to 2012, when the government ran very large deficits.
    • Chapter 33. Macroeconomics: Events and Ideas

The New York Times Columns edit

  • Even when political action doesn't backfire, when the movement gets what it wants, the effects are often startlingly malign. For example, could anything be worse than having children work in sweatshops? Alas, yes. In 1993, child workers in Bangladesh were found to be producing clothing for Wal-Mart, and Senator Tom Harkin proposed legislation banning imports from countries employing underage workers. The direct result was that Bangladeshi textile factories stopped employing children. But did the children go back to school? Did they return to happy homes? Not according to Oxfam, which found that the displaced child workers ended up in even worse jobs, or on the streets -- and that a significant number were forced into prostitution.
    The point is that third-world countries aren't poor because their export workers earn low wages; it's the other way around. Because the countries are poor, even what look to us like bad jobs at bad wages are almost always much better than the alternatives: millions of Mexicans are migrating to the north of the country to take the low-wage export jobs that outrage opponents of Nafta. And those jobs wouldn't exist if the wages were much higher: the same factors that make poor countries poor -- low productivity, bad infrastructure, general social disorganization -- mean that such countries can compete on world markets only if they pay wages much lower than those paid in the West.
    • "Reckonings; Hearts And Heads", The New York Times (April 22, 2001)
  • To fight this recession the Fed needs more than a snapback; it needs soaring household spending to offset moribund business investment. And to do that, as Paul McCulley of Pimco put it, Alan Greenspan needs to create a housing bubble to replace the Nasdaq bubble. Judging by Mr. Greenspan's remarkably cheerful recent testimony, he still thinks he can pull that off. But the Fed chairman's crystal ball has been cloudy lately; remember how he urged Congress to cut taxes to head off the risk of excessive budget surpluses? And a sober look at recent data is not encouraging.
It should be noted that Krugman was being sarcastic; two weeks later, he wrote an article warning about the dangers of a housing bubble.
  • What saved the economy, and the New Deal was the enormous public-works project known as World War II, which finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy's needs.
    • Op-ed, "Franklin Delano Obama," New York Times, November 10, 2008 [3]
  • When it comes to the all-too-human problem of recessions and depressions, economists need to abandon the neat but wrong solution of assuming that everyone is rational and markets work perfectly. The vision that emerges as the profession rethinks its foundations may not be all that clear; it certainly won’t be neat; but we can hope that it will have the virtue of being at least partly right.
    • "How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?", The New York Times (September 2, 2009)
  • I do not think that word “compromise” means what Mr. Ryan thinks it means. Above all, he failed to offer the one thing the White House won’t, can’t bend on: an end to extortion over the debt ceiling. Yet even this ludicrously unbalanced offer was too much for conservative activists, who lambasted Mr. Ryan for basically leaving health reform intact.

    Does this mean that we’re going to hit the debt ceiling? Quite possibly; nobody really knows, but careful observers are giving no better than even odds that any kind of deal will be reached before the money runs out. Beyond that, however, our current state of dysfunction looks like a chronic condition, not a one-time event. Even if the debt ceiling is raised enough to avoid immediate default, even if the government shutdown is somehow brought to an end, it will only be a temporary reprieve. Conservative activists are simply not willing to give up on the idea of ruling through extortion, and the Obama administration has decided, wisely, that it will not give in to extortion.

    So how does this end? How does America become governable again?

  • Things could have been even worse. This week, we managed to avoid driving off a cliff. But we’re still on the road to nowhere.
  • Many liberals have changed their views in response to new evidence. It’s an interesting experience; conservatives should try it some time.
    • Paul Krugman (17 July 2015). "Liberals and Wages". New York Times. Retrieved on 17 July 2015. 
  • Holding people accountable for their past is O.K., but imposing a standard of purity, in which any compromise or misstep makes you the moral equivalent of the bad guys, isn’t. Abraham Lincoln didn’t meet that standard; neither did F.D.R. Nor, for that matter, has Bernie Sanders (think guns).
  • The Sanders campaign has brought out a lot of idealism and energy that the progressive movement needs. It has also, however, brought out a streak of petulant self-righteousness among some supporters. Has it brought out that streak in the candidate, too?
  • If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.
    • Prediction in the aftermath of Donald Trump's presidential election victory. Markets recovered the following day.
    • The Economic Fallout (November 9, 2016)
  • The fact is that Democrats have already been pursuing policies that are much better for the white working class than anything the other party has to offer. Yet this has brought no political reward.
  • Nobody can credibly promise to bring the old jobs back; what you can promise — and Mrs. Clinton did — are things like guaranteed health care and higher minimum wages. But working-class whites overwhelmingly voted for politicians who promise to destroy those gains.
  • You can’t explain the votes of places like Clay County as a response to disagreements about trade policy. The only way to make sense of what happened is to see the vote as an expression of, well, identity politics — some combination of white resentment at what voters see as favoritism toward nonwhites (even though it isn’t) and anger on the part of the less educated at liberal elites whom they imagine look down on them.
  • Democrats have to figure out why the white working class just voted overwhelmingly against its own economic interests, not pretend that a bit more populism would solve the problem.
  • Nonetheless, William Barr — again, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, responsible for defending the Constitution — is sounding remarkably like America’s most unhinged religious zealots, the kind of people who insist that we keep experiencing mass murder because schools teach the theory of evolution. Guns don’t kill people — Darwin kills people!
  • The way to deal with China would have been a broad coalition of countries that play by the rules. Instead, we've conveyed the message that big countries don't need no rules. And China is a very big country.
  • Republicans Add Insult to Illness
  • Because the Trump team insisted that a roaring recovery was coming, and refused to notice that it wasn’t happening, we’ve now stumbled into a completely gratuitous economic crisis.

The New York Review of Books articles edit

  • If Keynes was Luther, Friedman was Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. And like the Jesuits, Friedman’s followers have acted as a sort of disciplined army of the faithful, spearheading a broad, but incomplete, rollback of Keynesian heresy. By the century’s end, classical economics had regained much though by no means all of its former dominion, and Friedman deserves much of the credit.
    • "Who Was Milton Friedman?", The New York Review of Books (February 15, 2007)
  • Keynesian theory initially prevailed because it did a far better job than classical orthodoxy of making sense of the world around us, and Friedman’s critique of Keynes became so influential largely because he correctly identified Keynesianism’s weak points. And just to be clear: although this essay argues that Friedman was wrong on some issues, and sometimes seemed less than honest with his readers, I regard him as a great economist and a great man.
    • "Who Was Milton Friedman?", The New York Review of Books (February 15, 2007)
  • Keynes didn’t make an all-out assault on Economic Man, but he often resorted to plausible psychological theorizing rather than careful analysis of what a rational decision-maker would do. Business decisions were driven by “animal spirits,” consumer decisions by a psychological tendency to spend some but not all of any increase in income, wage settlements by a sense of fairness, and so on.
    But was it really a good idea to diminish the role of Economic Man that much? No, said Friedman, who argued in his 1953 essay “The Methodology of Positive Economics” that economic theories should be judged not by their psychological realism but by their ability to predict behavior. And Friedman’s two greatest triumphs as an economic theorist came from applying the hypothesis of rational behavior to questions other economists had thought beyond its reach.
    • "Who Was Milton Friedman?", The New York Review of Books (February 15, 2007)
  • One interesting footnote: although Friedman made great strides in macroeconomics by applying the concept of individual rationality, he also knew where to stop. In the 1970s, some economists pushed Friedman’s analysis of inflation even further, arguing that there is no usable trade-off between inflation and unemployment even in the short run, because people will anticipate government actions and build that anticipation, as well as past experience, into their price-setting and wage-bargaining. This doctrine, known as “rational expectations,” swept through much of academic economics. But Friedman never went there.
    • "Who Was Milton Friedman?", The New York Review of Books (February 15, 2007)
  • In effect, Japan in the Nineties offered a fresh opportunity to test the views of Friedman and Keynes regarding the effectiveness of monetary policy in depression conditions. And the results clearly supported Keynes’s pessimism rather than Friedman’s optimism.
    • "Who Was Milton Friedman?", The New York Review of Books (February 15, 2007)
  • What’s odd about Friedman’s absolutism on the virtues of markets and the vices of government is that in his work as an economist’s economist he was actually a model of restraint. As I pointed out earlier, he made great contributions to economic theory by emphasizing the role of individual rationality—but unlike some of his colleagues, he knew where to stop. Why didn’t he exhibit the same restraint in his role as a public intellectual?
    The answer, I suspect, is that he got caught up in an essentially political role. Milton Friedman the great economist could and did acknowledge ambiguity. But Milton Friedman the great champion of free markets was expected to preach the true faith, not give voice to doubts. And he ended up playing the role his followers expected. As a result, over time the refreshing iconoclasm of his early career hardened into a rigid defense of what had become the new orthodoxy.
    In the long run, great men are remembered for their strengths, not their weaknesses, and Milton Friedman was a very great man indeed—a man of intellectual courage who was one of the most important economic thinkers of all time, and possibly the most brilliant communicator of economic ideas to the general public that ever lived. But there’s a good case for arguing that Friedmanism, in the end, went too far, both as a doctrine and in its practical applications. When Friedman was beginning his career as a public intellectual, the times were ripe for a counterreformation against Keynesianism and all that went with it. But what the world needs now, I’d argue, is a counter-counterreformation.
    • "Who Was Milton Friedman?", The New York Review of Books (February 15, 2007)
  • Equally important, the financial industry’s political power has not gone away. Banks have waged a fierce campaign against what many expected to be an easily passed reform proposal, the creation of a new agency to protect financial consumers. Despite the steady drumbeat of scandalous revelations—most recently, the discovery that Goldman Sachs helped Greece cook its books, while Lehman cooked its own books—top financial executives continue to have ready access to the corridors of power. And as many have noted, President Obama’s chief economic and financial officials are men closely associated with Clinton-era deregulation and financial triumphalism; they may have revised their views but the continuity remains striking.
    In that sense, this time really is different: while the first great global financial crisis was followed by major reforms, it’s not clear that anything comparable will happen after the second. And history tells us what will happen if those reforms don’t take place. There will be a resurgence of financial folly, which always flourishes given a chance. And the consequence of that folly will be more and quite possibly worse crises in the years to come.
    • Paul Krugman and Robin Wells, "Our Giant Banking Crisis—What to Expect", The New York Review of Books (May 13, 2010)
  • Piketty ends Capital in the Twenty-First Century with a call to arms — a call, in particular, for wealth taxes, global if possible, to restrain the growing power of inherited wealth. It’s easy to be cynical about the prospects for anything of the kind. But surely Piketty’s masterly diagnosis of where we are and where we’re heading makes such a thing considerably more likely. So Capital in the Twenty-First Century is an extremely important book on all fronts. Piketty has transformed our economic discourse; we’ll never talk about wealth and inequality the same way we used to.
    • "Why We’re in a New Gilded Age", The New York Review of Books (May 8, 2014)

The Conscience of a Liberal blog edit

  • We’re living in a Dark Age of macroeconomics. Remember, what defined the Dark Ages wasn’t the fact that they were primitive — the Bronze Age was primitive, too. What made the Dark Ages dark was the fact that so much knowledge had been lost, that so much known to the Greeks and Romans had been forgotten by the barbarian kingdoms that followed.
  • The best you can say about economic policy in this slump is that we have for the most part avoided a full repeat of the Great Depression. I say “for the most part” because we actually are seeing a Depression-level slump in Greece, and very bad slumps elsewhere in the European periphery. Still, the overall downturn hasn’t been a full 1930s replay. But all of that, I think, can be attributed to the financial rescue of 2008-2009 and automatic stabilizers. Deliberate policy to offset the crash in private spending has been largely absent.
  • Sometimes economists in official positions give bad advice; sometimes they give very, very bad advice; and sometimes they work at the OECD.
  • We’re now in the seventh year of a slump brought on by Wall Street excess; the wizardly job of “allocating the economy’s investment resources” consisted, we now know, largely of funneling money into a real estate bubble.
  • I would summarize the Keynesian view in terms of four points:

    1. Economies sometimes produce much less than they could, and employ many fewer workers than they should, because there just isn’t enough spending. Such episodes can happen for a variety of reasons; the question is how to respond.
    2. There are normally forces that tend to push the economy back toward full employment. But they work slowly; a hands-off policy toward depressed economies means accepting a long, unnecessary period of pain.
    3. It is often possible to drastically shorten this period of pain and greatly reduce the human and financial losses by “printing money”, using the central bank’s power of currency creation to push interest rates down.
    4. Sometimes, however, monetary policy loses its effectiveness, especially when rates are close to zero. In that case temporary deficit spending can provide a useful boost. And conversely, fiscal austerity in a depressed economy imposes large economic losses.

  • It has been obvious for quite a while that Sanders — not just his supporters, not even just his surrogates, but the candidate himself — has a problem both in facing reality and in admitting mistakes.
  • As Branko says, there was a time when Serbs and Croats seemed to get along fairly well, indeed intermarrying at a high rate. But could anyone now put Yugoslavia back together? At this rate, we’ll soon be asking the same question about America.

Quotes about Krugman edit

  • Paul Krugman's attack on Brian Arthur ("The Legend of Arthur") requires a correction of its misrepresentations of fact. Arthur is a reputable and significant scholar whose work is indeed having influence in the field of industrial organization and in particular public policy toward antitrust policy in hightech industries. Krugman admits that he wrote the article because he was "just pissed off," not a very good state for a judicious statement of facts, as his column shows.
  • Critics of Paul Krugman call him acerbic and boastful, unfair on the attack and unwilling to make concessions on the defense, certain that he is correct, and always sure that those who disagree are mendacious or foolish (or both). And I cannot deny that these criticisms are accurate. But all these are outweighed by one fact: he is almost always--not always, but almost always--right.
    He is the closest thing to an heir to John Maynard Keynes we have today.
  • Krugman is right about democracy in a sense: Democracy is essentially one big organized act of bullying whereby a larger group bullies a smaller group in order to plunder it with taxes. The “Civil War” proved that whenever a smaller group has finally had enough, and attempts to leave the game, the larger group will resort to anything—even the mass murder of hundreds of thousands and the bombing and burning of entire cities—to get its way. After all, in his first inaugural address Lincoln literally threatened “force,” “invasion,” and “bloodshed” (his exact words) in any state that refused to pay the federal tariff , which had just been more than doubled two days earlier. He followed through with his threat. This is “the kind of nation I believe in,” says Paul Krugman on his blog.
    • Thomas J. DiLorenzo, "Organized Crime: The Unvarnished Truth About Government", Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute, pp. 88-89; responding to Paul Krugman's "Road to Appomattox Blogging", The New York Times 29 March 2012
  • I was just reading an excellent and appropriately approving account of your work. It tells of those who vigorously oppose. My admiration and my personal reward from what you do has no qualification, so it is with all those I wittingly know. Do realize that this is your worthwhile majority and that dissenters are an essential proof of your merit. I should be clear: your column is the best regular reading on economics and politics that I’ve encountered over the last seventy-five years and even a few more.
    • John Kenneth Galbraith, letter to Paul Krugman, April 5, 2004, published in Richard P. F. Holt (ed.), The Selected Letters of John Kenneth Galbraith (2017)
  • I cannot forbear to lengthen an already long paper by adding some remarks about what Paul Krugman calls the "new international economics" (Strategic Trade Policy and the New International Economics, MIT paperback, 1986) and "new trade theory" (in "New Trade Theory and the Less Developed Countries," a paper submitted to the Carlos F. Diaz-Alejandro memorial conference held in Helsinki, August 23-5, 1986). The "new" theory rests on economies of scale. As I told Krugman at Helsinki, I find it a bizarre notion that increasing returns in international trade are new. I developed it at length in my 1953 textbook, based on the 1929 article of John Williams, reprinted in the AEA, "Readings in the Theory of International Trade." Jan Tinbergen developed it in his textbook, International Economic Integration (1954). I recall the joy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when Kenneth Arrow made increasing returns respectable by formalizing Alfred Marshall's description of long-run decreasing costs historically with his paper on "Learning by Doing," a paper rapidly incorporated into international-trade theory by those who need formal models to understand the intuitively obvious. I confess to some irritation over Krugman's defense of his international-trade theory as new because it offers a well-worn truth in equation form.
    • Charles P. Kindleberger, "How ideas spread among economists: examples from international economics" in The Spread of Economic Ideas (1989) edited by David C. Colander and A. W. Coats
  • Krugman [...] was not cheerfully advocating a housing bubble, but instead he was glumly saying that the only way he could see to get out of the recession would be for such a bubble to occur.
  • As was the case with Smith's original observations on specialization and market size, we shall need a tractable analytical framework to make progress on this issue. The two Helpman and Krugman monographs have amply shown that when Smith's ideas are developed within a clear theoretical framework, they contain some surprising implications. They are, I think, outstanding illustrations of why we work to construct useful, explicit theories rather than being content with good rules of thumb.
    • Robert Lucas, Jr., Review of Trade Policy and Market Structure by Elhanan Helpman and Paul R. Krugman, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 98, No. 3 (Jun., 1990)
  • Paul Krugman has been doing a lot of very effective writing attacking non-economists writing about economic matters. Paul is speaking for the whole profession in a very effective way and addressing the most important questions in social science.
    • Robert Lucas, Jr., In: Brian Snowdon and Howard R. Vane. "Transforming macroeconomics: an interview with Robert E. Lucas Jr." Journal of Economic Methodology 5.1 (1998): 115-146.
  • Despite its flaws, Peddling Prosperity has much to recommend it. There is no book written for a lay audience that explains the economics profession with more perception or clarity than this one.
    • N. Gregory Mankiw, Review of Peddling Prosperity: Economic Sense and Nonsense in the Age of Diminished Expectations by Paul Krugman, Journal of Economic Literature (Dec., 1995)
  • I grew to understand how the Chicago School argued, and I can do it myself, but they were lying about how they arrived at their conclusions. I could see that they were obviously lying, but I was just annoyed and shocked that they continued to lie about how they got to the questions that they got to. And then it gradually occurred to me that if this is true, then maybe the whole profession is lying, and that belief has gotten stronger as I have gotten older. People say, "We do econometrics, and that tests our hypotheses." Baloney. We do theory. I was just rereading last night Paul Krugman's famous article where he tries to introduce geographical considerations into economics, and it is a very skillfully done article. It's rhetorically very skillful. I can show you how it works rhetorically, but it is complete nonsense scientifically, not because it is wrong but because it is arbitrary. There are a zillion other ways of formalizing geography in economics that would come to opposite conclusions to those he comes to, and yet he's kind of airily saying that this is a contribution. Then there are a thousand other articles modifying that. It doesn't get anywhere: they modify it and get completely different conclusions. If you change your assumptions, you get different theorems. So the whole exercise, it gradually dawned on me, was complete nonsense, so that's what turned me. But it is unfair and kind of stupid to say that I stopped doing economics.
    • Deirdre N. McCloskey, interview, published in The Changing Face of Economics: Conversations with Cutting Edge Economists (2004) edited by David Colander, Richard P. F. Holt, J. Barkley Rosser Jr.
  • Paul Krugman is a respected trade theorist. But he does not speak authoritatively on subjects on which he has no expertise. Monetary economics is not his field of expertise. Krugman’s research background does not qualify him as an authority on Milton Friedman’s work. … Friedman’s reputation is intact despite Krugman’s deplorable efforts to denigrate him and his contributions.
    • Edward Nelson and Anna J. Schwartz, "The impact of Milton Friedman on modern monetary economics: Setting the record straight on Paul Krugman’s ‘Who was Milton Friedman?’", Journal of Monetary Economics 55 (2008)
  • (Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?) ...Because of “The Daily Show,” most of my reading time these days is consumed by journalists. Paul Krugman is always great. ...
  • I am proud of my generation of policy economists. You know their names: Walter Heller, Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, Arthur Okun, Herbert Stein, Peter Drucker, and many more. But, as some sage has said, science progresses funeral by funeral. Paul Krugman is the rising star of this century and the next, and the world beats a path to his door. International finance is his thing, but that is only one of the many strings to his fiddle. The World Bank, the IMF, the Bank of Japan, and the Boston Fed all seek to tap his fountain of wisdom and new ideas.
  • If you grew up in the 80s you probably remember Voltron. Although the show often had convoluted plotlines, it would somehow always end with Voltron (a super-powerful robot formed from five mechanical lions) facing off against a monster called a "Robeast". Voltron had plenty of weapons, but he would invariably strike the killing blow with his "Blazing Sword". Eventually the show became kind of routine, but to a four-year-old, it was pure gold.
    In the econ blogosphere, a similar dynamic has played out over the last few years. Each week a Robeast will show up, bellowing predictions of inflation and/or soaring interest rates. And each week, Paul Krugman...I mean, KrugTron, Defender of the Blogoverse, will strike down the monster with a successful prediction of...low inflation and continued low interest rates. Goldbugs, "Austrians", New Classical economists, and harrumphing conservatives of all stripes have eagerly gone head-to-head with KrugTron in the prediction wars, and have been summarily cloven in twain.
  • I was explaining Nordhaus’s work in a graduate course I was then teaching on the economic theory of natural resources. As a strong believer in economics as a handicraft industry, I mentioned, teasingly, to the class that this remarkable piece of work had been done by an extraordinarily powerful research apparatus, not to be undervalued by advocates of Big Economics: one professor and one undergraduate research assistant. When the class was over, one of the students came shyly up to me and said, “I was the undergraduate research assistant.” It turned out to be Paul Krugman. Teaching can be an unexpected pleasure.
    • Robert Solow, "An Amateur Among Professionals", Annual Review of Resource Economics (2009)
  • Until the emergence of Democrat leader John Kerry, Paul Krugman had virtually become the leader of the opposition in America, an unusual position for an academic economist.
  • From conversations, I became convinced that people who counterfactual upwards (i.e., compare themselves to those richer) want to actively dispossess the rich. As with all communist movements, it is often the bourgeois or clerical classes who are the early adopters of revolutionary theories. So class envy doesn’t originate from a truck driver in South Alabama, but from a New York or Washington, D.C., Ivy League–educated IYI [Intellectual Yet Idiot] (say Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz) with a sense of entitlement, upset some “less smart” persons are much richer.

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