Bryan Caplan  

Paul's Nobel: Nicht Ein Unrecht

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Congratulations, Paul Krugman... Questions I Would Like to See ...

Gordon Tullock is always my first choice for the Nobel prize, but Paul Krugman's win is, as the Germans say, nicht ein Unrecht - not an injustice. Yes, he's often screamed himself silly, but the best fifth of Krugman's corpus is excellent. As I guest blogged on MR years ago:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: When Obama wins, Krugman will quickly drop his partisan hackery. He's unfair to his enemies, but he does not suffer fools gladly. And it's safe to say that a year into Obama's presidency, there will be plenty of folly for Krugman to decry.


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COMMENTS (13 to date)
E. Barandiaran writes:

Keep Gordon as your first choice. His contributions have indeed been many and original.

Regarding PK, remember that the NYT ombudsman wrote this understatement:

"Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults" (Daniel Okrent, "13 Things I Meant to Write About but Never Did," The New York Times, 22 May 2005).

Indeed he was rewarded for his contribution to economics, but people should know that he's not a honest person.

Jack writes:

Yes, the old Krugman policy writings are gold, and great for Econ 101 or similar courses. I also agree that a year or so into Obama's presidency Krugman will return to his old self.

PrestoPundt writes:

Bryan -- Ready to put money on this one? Say $100?


>>Prediction: When Obama wins, Krugman will quickly drop his partisan hackery. He's unfair to his enemies, but he does not suffer fools gladly. And it's safe to say that a year into Obama's presidency, there will be plenty of folly for Krugman to decry.

Partisan hackery and being unfair to his enemies has been Krugman's MO throughout his career -- you can find it in every popular work he's ever written.

John Fast writes:

With enemies like Krugman, who needs friends?

johnleemk writes:

PrestoPundt:

Being a penniless student from a developing country I can't stake money on this, but I would if I were in Bryan's position. Krugman's The Accidental Theorist is quite possibly the first economics book I ever read, and what got me interested in the field. In my view it remains a refreshing and seminal work for the layman. Its defence of trade and markets is unmistakable.

I suspect Krugman became complacent with a Bush presidency - with the political winds blowing in a vague laissez faire direction he let his interest in social democratic policies take wing. But during the Clinton presidency when anti-trade rhetoric abounded, especially in the face of opposition to NAFTA and the WTO, Krugman was one of the most vocal advocates for trade and free markets, and I can't forget that.

Steve Sailer writes:

Also, in the 1990s he read up on evolutionary theory and learned, and said so forthrightly, that Stephen Jay Gould was the John K. Galbraith of evolution: a sonorous bozo (although that may be harsh toward JKG).

William writes:

grammar courtesy of google!: "nicht ein Unrecht"; 1,330 hits

"kein Unrecht"; 56,900 hits

occasional visitor writes:

William:

Probably Bryan is quoting from something, though I can't tell from what. "nicht ein Unrecht" isn't wrong, just very, very stilted. If I had to guess I'd say it's from a poem by Schiller or some other romantic poet. Also, it would be a lot less stilted if the sentence goes on explaining what else it is, like "Die Verleihung des Nobelpreises an Krugman ist nicht ein Unrecht sondern eine angemessene Würdigung seiner Arbeit" (The Award of the nobel price to Krugman is not an injustice but a adequate recognition/appraisal of his work)

Francis writes:

I think that Krugman is a serious and rational person from the left. That in itself should be a cause for interest.

I read with delight "Peddling Prosperity", where he didn't spare anyone, right or left, for their stupid ideas on economics.

What happens with his rhetoric from now on, though, I don't know; and I would not be so certain of the prediction Mr. Caplan does. I have seen so many talented people becoming stupid from intoxication by popularity that I wonder if this is not the path he is going to take. Bertrand Russell said he "didn't think 10% of popular scientists would say the truth if it cost them their popularity". (A self-fulfilling prophecy for Russell...)

And what about the possibility Obama offers him a position?

William writes:

Good call, occasional visitor, and I withdraw my complaint. I searched more thoroughly and found the phrase in Mein Kampf:

"Völker, die sich bastardieren oder bastardieren lassen, sündigen gegen den Willen der ewigen Vorsehung, und ihr durch einen Stärkeren herbeigeführter Untergang ist dann nicht ein Unrecht, das ihnen zugefügt wird, sondern nur die Wiederherstellung des Rechtes."

(I'm not going to translate this.)

Does my bringing this up prove that every blog argument degenerates into an ad Hitlerem attack?

Barkley Rosser writes:

Bryan,

I think you are right in your forecast. Certainly Krugman is pro-Obama against McCain-Palin. But he was not at all pro-Obama during the primary campaign, appearing to favor first Edwards and then Hillary, particularly over the issue of health care. His lack of enthusiasm for Obama was much noted by many, and if Obama wins, it is likely that we can see him emerge early as a critic on the left.

I will not repeat my commentaries on the merits of the award itself to Krugman. Greg Ransom has quoted my remarks in a comment for Arnold Kling's post on this that I made on Marginal Revolution. In addition, I have made an extended post on the matter on econospeak.

Someone from the Other Side writes:

Kein Unrecht is a lot less worse German than Nicht ein Unrecht. I would not necessarily consider Kein Unrecht to be very good German (being a double negotiation and all that) either, though.

(And yes, I'm natively German speaking)

Michael Turner writes:

For those who care to review the Krugman-Okrent debate

http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2005/05/31/new-public-editor-hosts-paul-krugman-daniel-okrent-debate/

"has the disturbing habit of"? No, I'd say "occasionally lapses into". At worst.

If you want to see a disturbing habit of slicing and dicing numbers to fit a political agenda, there's always Donald Luskin over at NRO. That's not to say Luskin is useless. Far from it. The day he finally capitulates and warns us all to get out of stocks -- that's the day I start buying them. Because that's the kind of reliable contrary indicator he is.

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