OMG I think I found an economist I can almost respect

It is not often I need to reach for the wiktionary to decipher a sentence in English. Indeed, the writing of Paul Krugman[en.WP] for the New York Times is rather larded with overly-precise, obscure, and fussy word choices, often apparently for the simple love of language. For this alone I might respect him.

But unlike every other economist I have read – and I have avoided all but the ineluctable[NYT] – he seemingly thinks.

From at least the time of Alexander there was much written on the science, mystery, art of metallurgy. By the early 1800s the number of scientific texts in any university library filled many shelves.

By 1920 this was usually one or two textbooks, and a few discussions about exotics.

This chestnut is my usual go-to argument about mysticism and religion masquerading as a field of study. Any field which is understood is pinned between two covers. Yes, there are disagreements here and there, but the central tenets of the field are in consensus. The rest is marginalia. (I am sooo going to burn in hell.)

There are entire libraries of contemporary economics texts.

This is so squishy a field it is hard to find its edges. It has disciples, and prophets, and movements which began more than a century ago, and their schisms and heretical anti-movements, and ‘new’ movements which began last month and will likely still exist next century, probably still called a ‘new’ movement. Economists have written opera about economics.

Professor Krugman does not dispute this. Indeed, he dredges through the past century of beliefs in nearly every article I have read. He is not apologetic, either, regarding refutability. But he calls out intellectual dishonesty by other economists.

And most importantly for me at this moment, he wrote this critique of mainstream media in a column (which, apparently habitual with the author, could be improved with stricter adherence to Rule 13):

And I think that’s true across the board. The left has genuine public intellectuals with actual ideas and at least some real influence; the right does not. News organizations don’t seem to have figured out how to deal with this reality, except by pretending that it doesn’t exist. And that’s why we keep having these Williamson-like debacles.

Here in Canada the broadcasters all regularly report the plabium oozing from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a PAC masquerading as a non-profit think tank, in part funded by the Koch Brothers of the United States. Extremely rarely the journalists will mention the ‘reports’ and ‘research’ published by the CTF is not academic, but mostly they do not. And that is only one example of how Media fails their mandate: there is no ‘right’ in science coverage because no one espousing unreality has any standing in science, and no one reporting reality has any standing amongst conservatives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You can encrypt your comment so that only WSaewyc can read it.