Monday, October 13, 2008

The Bestest Award Ever - Updated

I wonder if there has ever been a Nobel Prize awarded with such an immediate and concrete impact as that for Paul Krugman today. In the midst of the current financial crisis, his influence on U.S. and global economic policy and thinking was already rising – from the flaws in the Paulson plan, to the wisdom of Gordon Brown's approach -- and that influence now seems likely to be redoubled. Usually, Nobel Prizes are retrospective and long-term in their perspective. I can’t remember one that amounted to an endorsement of a thinker in the midst of a rolling tsunami like this, with such a need for real-time decisions and so much at stake.

Bravo, and thank goodness.

Also, it’s impossible not to reflect that Krugman has not only been proven right on his long-held and frequently published (indeed, daily) analyses of economics, healthcare and public policy in general… but also that he was right from the start on the Democratic nomination decision. Maybe we can hope that President-Elect Obama will take out some tracing paper as he crafts his new Administration. Wouldn’t it be great to hear, “Whatever Paul and Hillary said… we’ll do that.”

Update: In case you were wondering... Yes, I did consider titling this post "The Nobelist Krugman of Them All," or "Please, Officer Krugman," or "Nobel Oblige"... but thought better of it.


David Berger said...

Oy, do I disagree. I think it's fairer to say that Krugman WAS a great economist - and perhaps still is - but he's a truly lousy, intellectually dishonest political polemicist. He may deserves the Nobel for his earlier work, but his commentary cheapens his profession.

By point of comparison, look at the work of another Nobel winner - Milton Friedman. He used his column in Newsweek in the late 1970s and early 1980s to advance the understanding of his discipline. His columns weren't harsh, were well-reasoned and respectful of dissenting views. In the end, this contributed to his own stature and the recognition for economics as a whole.

Krugman appeals to the basest impulses of the Kos Kids and the self-satisfied left. More to the point, by engaging in such blatant partisan hackery he's cheapened the study of economics. If anything, he's contributed mightily to the bitter polarization of today's politics and policy debates.

Well deserved for past work? Perhaps. A symbol of all that's right with the world? Au contraire, mon frere.

Falstaff said...

Putting aside discussion of tone -- on which we also disagree -- he's been consistently right in recent years, as well as in past years, in my view. He was regularly attacked as being nothing but an anti-Bush partisan, as if his warnings about the housing bubble and the unsustainability and irrationality of Bush's economic policies was just political rhetoric. Similarly, he's been demonized by the Obots for his critique of Obama -- and support for Hillary -- on healthcare. Well, he was right on both of those, too.

How is that cheapening anything?

Mike J. said...

I'm glad to see Kuruguman-Sensei get the award. Well deserved in every respect. And, given how much destruction Milton Friedman's ideas inflicted on the world, perhaps his award should be revoked posthumously.

As to Krugman's ideas being reflected in Obama administration policies, two words: Austan. Goolsbee.

Mike J. said...

About the only negative I could say about Krugman is that he is entirely too optimistic and naive about the Obama administration adopting sound policies. I think that his general pro-Democrat leanings are getting in the way of sound analysis of McCain's and Obama's policies and their advisors' stances. He was much better when he was looking at two Democrats: Obama and Clinton. But he evidently can't get around the ossified popular wisdom that Democrat automatically means economic liberalism.

David Berger said...

Mike - "given how much destruction Milton Friedman's ideas inflicted on the world, perhaps his award should be revoked posthumously."

Or haven't you noticed that the global standard of living has risen dramatically since 1980?

Falstaff - re Obama's healthcare plan, how could Krugman be already "proven" right when it hasn't even been implemented yet? :)

Falstaff said...

Well, I didn't actually say "proven." I said I think he was right! :)

More broadly, proof is inevitably elusive on such matters, and the province of historians (and arguments among same). Indeed, I'd even say it's dicey to make confident judgments one way or the other about any theorist's impact -- Milton Friedman's, Marx's, Descartes's, Plato's, you name it. But in the more immediate sphere of commentary on and analysis of current events, I'd say Krugman has a remarkably good track record. Plus, he's one of those rare professional experts in any field who is also skilled at conveying complex subjects in clear, comprehensible ways, without (I think) trivializing them. Is that worth a Nobel Prize? Maybe not -- but at a time of crisis, it sure is refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Milton Friedman was a great mathematician/modeler; in reality, his theories were pure garbage. I lived in Israel when a right wing government decided to apply Friedman's models to the economy. In about 6 months inflation hit 4 digit. Way to go Berger.

As far as the argument that "the global standard of living has risen dramatically since 1980." That one takes the cake. It's probably due to my smart dog Milt. Friedman caused terrible deficits that started to haunt the country starting from Reagan the clown, bush I and, of course, the biggest moron on earth bush II.

I don't think that Krugman needs my help.

Berger, like all Republicans you are blind, deaf and regrettably not mute.

Derek said...

Regarding Friedman, another Nobel-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, slices him up rather well in Vanity Fair, discussing how we got here and where we need to head.

But to Lakelobos, I have to say: Berger is neither blind nor deaf. He's just confused this election cycle. In fact, Falstaff might not even be blogging today if it weren't for Berger. So the drive-by flaming is a out of bounds, IMHO.

Falstaff said...

David and I disagree on a number of things, and we agree on others -- as is the case with any two (or twenty) thinking individuals, including lakelobos, derek and the rest of us here. But that's not the point. David is thoughtful and informed, as is clear from reading his comments on various posts since I started this blog.

I don't want to clamp down on energetic discourse here, and I have obviously not articulated any criteria for posting. To this point it hasn't been an issue. And I have, also obviously, been plenty vivid in my language in the main posts. But when we're talking to each other, person to person, I guess I would prefer we keep it respectful. I don't want people to feel unwelcome -- including thinkers like lakelobos with whom I agree.

And finally, if David's feelings this cycle -- his distaste for both Obama and McCain, and his dismay at the devolution of the GOP -- is evidence of confusion... well, some of that confusion I share. :)

David Berger said...

Thanks for gettin' my back, Derek. :)

Now if Falstaff really wants to get my ire up he should forget economics and blog about the total implosion of the America's Cup, a once-great sporting spectacle that now lies in ashes. Either that or labradoodles.

Falstaff said...

Ah, for the days when Ted was Turner...