Monday, October 13, 2008

An Nobel prize for economics, and attendant Obamations

Here is a old article appearing on Slate today, in honour of its writer, Paul Krugman.

Above all, the story of the co-op tells you that economic slumps are not punishments for our sins, pains that we are fated to suffer. The Capitol Hill co-op did not get into trouble because its members were bad, inefficient baby sitters; its troubles did not reveal the fundamental flaws of "Capitol Hill values" or "crony baby-sittingism." It had a technical problem—too many people chasing too little scrip—which could be, and was, solved with a little clear thinking. And so, as I said, the co-op's story helps me to resist the pull of fatalism and pessimism.

Paul Krugman was named the sole winner of the Nobel prize for economics today:

The prize committee lauded Mr. Krugman for “having shown the effects of economies of scale on trade patterns and on the location of economic activity

... Mr. Krugman’s models have been praised for their simplicity and practicality — features economists are often criticized for ignoring.

I know nothing about economics, I read the NYT only when some blogger links to it, so I know next to nothing about Krugman's worth as a journalist. He seems to have an intuitive understanding for Israel's plight, so that makes him a morally-astute man in my eyes. He also supports Barack Obama*. But who doesn't these days, for one reason or another? Obama has become the favoured candidate by default.

* Update: My reader NWO makes a valid point by drawing my attention to a post by Michelle Malkin in which she quotes Krugman:

"Paul Krugman is trembling: “Something very ugly is taking shape on the political scene: as McCain’s chances fade, the crowds at his rallies are, by all accounts, increasingly gripped by insane rage…What happens when Obama is elected? It will be even worse than it was in the Clinton years. For sure there will be crazy accusations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some violence.”

And then goes on to demonstrate scenes of insane rage from the Obama camp. Which makes you want to pause and reflect: how can a person who can write with such lucidity and simplicity about the economic crisis, or show that he understands about Israel's dilemma in 2006 war, become so blinkered, biased and clearly, dare I say it, stupid, when it comes to political issues and Barack Obama??

By the way, has any of you ever lost a friend because of political disagreement? I have. When I first began to watch Obama and reflect upon his scary adulators, I was taken to task by a friend who I had considered a genuine friend. She was unable to stand my sacrilegious scepticism and sent me an ugly letter. I had had the pleasure of being of some service to her and her family during the course of our friendship, but all memory of conviviality and good will was erased, as she was gripped by this "insane rage" that Krugman identifies as coming from the McCain camp (not a mention of the parallel derangement's on his side).

The Breath of the Beast might have provided the best explanation, to date, for this kind of hysterical response to difference of opinion:

The enticement of the “change” he offers, begins with the image of a black man who behaves like a white man ascending to the presidency “proving” that we are not a racist country and that we put equality before reason and self-reliance and ends with a bland and rational-sounding but nebulous approach to bringing about a socialist “change” in America. He leads many to believe that racism will just disappear from people’s heart and minds and seems to imply that his policies are less socialist than they are benevolent- that they will take away all the “inequalities” and suffering of normal life.

A world without racism, inequality and suffering is called Utopia.

Must have my dream. Can't risk anyone doubting my delusion. Woe to him who comes between me and my longed-for Utopia.

As I've been saying, tentatively, Obama appears to be an honourable and talented man who commands respect and may even turn out to be a good enough CEO for the USA. It's some of his crazy supporters that make you wonder: what do they know that I don't?

If I understand Yaacov Ben Moshe (The Breath of the Beast blogger), then

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."


At 4:42 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Krugman's Nobel is partially(perhaps mostly) based on his commentary and punditry in the NYT. Its totally in line with Progressive Swedish Political other words...anti Bushism.


I agree that Krugman’s Nobel was inevitable, and if it’s based entirely on his pre-NYT pundit career entirely deserved. The Nobel Committee focused on his international trade and economics of geography work, which is certainly important but many other economists were working the economies of scale-intl trade turf around the same time (e.g. Brander, Spencer and esp. Helpman, who he arguably should have shared the prize with). I think his work on international finance and speculative currency attacks is even more original and Noble-worthy.

However, his NYT opinions have been disgraceful and nearly negate the value of his earlier career. Compare the popularizing work of Milton Friedman to Krugman and it’s clear how far popular discussions of economic issues has fallen. Friedman certainly had a point of view, but his Newsweek columns in the 70s and 80s had an objective, almost tutorial tone. His conclusions and policy prescriptions flowed directly from a well-defined, neoclassical framework any professional economist would recognize. If you disagreed with Friedman (and many respected economists at the time did), he still defined issues in terms that led to a focused and reasonable debate. There was no incoherence or incompatibility between Friedman’s academic and popular writing, because he brought the academic standards of rigor and impartiality to the mass media.

Krugman couldn’t be more different. He routinely fudges facts and, when called on it, refuses to admit error. He never presents both sides of an argument dispassionately and then uses reason and observed experience to discern the truth. He consistently demonizes anyone who doesn’t agree with him. His shrill, hysterical voice trivializes honest differences and invites counter-attack rather than reasoned rebuttal. Plus he’s not even well-informed on many issues that fall outside his academic specializations.

I know the Nobel committee doesn’t judge entirely on the basis of someone’s career, but Krugman’s Nobel should make them rethink this. He continues to use his NYTimes column in a way that diminishes the intellectual standards of his field. This does significant, long-run harm to what the Nobel Committee calls “Economic Sciences,” perhaps entirely offsetting the value of Krugman’s academic contributions.

At 8:24 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kind of like giving a Nobel to the self hating Jew that always criticizes Israel.

At 8:38 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Krugman is not a self hating Jew. And it is OK to criticize Israel. From what I've seen from his criticism, he is well within the mainstream Israeli society.

You made a big booboo with this one:)

At 10:10 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I dont claim he is a self hating Jew, he is an American that is critical of the Bush Administration and highly influential as a NYTimes columnist....thus ticking the right boxes.

It doesnt hurt that he advocates a more Keynsian/Galbraith style in his popular columns.

At 10:13 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is he a Jew?

To be honest, I dont know if he is a Jew and I dont know his positions on Israel.

It was an analogy, that I thought you would understand....though you probably understand it with such specificity and nuance as to make the attempt a neanderthallish gaffe.


At 10:18 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS - Have you seen the new T-Shirts being sported at Palin events...

Obama's C**t

You may find this amusing/interesting....Michele Malkin

At 8:57 AM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Oh, sorry to have missed the metaphor. Please don't try it again.

BTW, I think your visits are registering again on my sitemeter. Funny stuff that. I am completely clueless about how it works. There are regular visitors who visit every day around the same time and all of a sudden they are gone. I no longer know how to interpret this activity.

At 12:43 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I scaring them off?


At 12:57 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

I was wondering whether you had a technical explanation for this.

At 1:21 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have more knowledge of sitemeters than I.

I do click straight in from Bookmarks instead of from Normblog now. I switched to Opera.

At 5:36 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MSNBC's Rachael Maddow seems to be as blind and stupid as Krugman.

(or perhaps may I suggest as biased.)

Maybe there is a pattern here? Hmmmm...

Frum Accuses Maddow of Increasing the Ugly Tone of Politics

At 7:10 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Comparing Rachael Maddow to Krugman is rather stupid and blind. Please try to rein in your rhetorical bile. I hate outlandish analogies, as you well know.

But for what it is worth, I share your dislike of Meadow. She often forgets that she is not on Obama's campaign payroll...

At 8:28 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As does much of the mainstream media.

I tried to tone down my bile with the move to biased....while trying to tie the comment in with your Krugman post. It may have been a bit much, but so was calling Krugman stupid, even hesitantly in your original post.

But thanks for the tip, one day, Ill be writing my own political blog and participating in the blogosphere link-a-thon, tit for tat, spit for spat.


Post a Comment

<< Home