Two Big Intellectual Victories for Ben Bernanke
Pranab Bardhan Is Teaching Paul Krugman's International Trade Models...

Paul Krugman: The Croakings of a Cassandra...

Daniel Davies writes:

“Crooked Timber: Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize for Economics[1].

The citation says he got it “for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity” – ie for new trade theory. Which certainly did pretty much light a bomb under the subject when he published it in the 1980s, but if this is all it’s for, it’s frankly surprising that Krugman got it all to himself; there were plenty of other people who might have felt they deserved a share.

I can’t help thinking that this is actually Krugman’s reward for being the public voice of mainstream sensible Keynesianism for the last fifteen years, starting with the use of the liquidity trap to explain the Japanese slump, going through his prediction of the Asian crises and onward to today. In which case, well done the Nobel[see note 1 again] committee – Krugman’s NYT column has been more use to the public standing of economists than more or less anything published in the journals.

And, of course, congratulations to Prof. Krugman himself, who might very well have believed that he’d done his professional status irreparable harm by taking such an aggressive line against the government of the day; he now gets the double pleasure of receiving the highest reward in economics, just as all of his detractors see their repuations ruined. There is probably some pithy epithet from Keynes or JK Galbraith to be inserted here on the general subject of honesty being the best politics, but I can’t think of it just at this instant.

Update: Hey, have you seen the new Guinness advert?

[1] blah blah blah Sveriges Riksbank. Nobody cares, you know.

Time quotes me this morning as saying that Paul is "the best claimant to the mantle of John Maynard Keynes" that we have. And I think I am more right than I knew, for I think that the "pithy epithet" is rather long, and is the opening to the preface to Keynes's Essays in Persuasion:

HERE are collected the croakings of twelve years--the croakings of a Cassandra who could never influence the course of events in time. The volume might have been entitled "Essays in Prophecy and Persuasion", for the Prophecy, unfortunately, has been more successful than the Persuasion. But it was in a spirit of persuasion that most of these essays were written, in an attempt to influence opinion. They were regarded at the time, many of them, as extreme and reckless utterances. But I think that the reader, looking through them to-day, will admit that this was because they often ran directly counter to the overwhelming weight of contemporary sentiment and opinion, and not because of their character in themselves. On the contrary, I feel--reading them again, though I am a prejudiced witness--that they contain more understatement than overstatement, as judged by after-events. That this should be their tendency, is a natural consequence of the circumstances in which they were written. For I wrote many of these essays painfully conscious that a cloud of witnesses would rise up against me and very few in my support, and that I must, therefore, be at great pains to say nothing which I could not substantiate. I was constantly on my guard--as I well remember, looking back--to be as moderate as my convictions and the argument would permit...

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias:

Matthew Yglesias: More Krugman: I think the epithet of choice has something to do with revenge being a dish best served atop a Nobel Prize.

One hopes that this will open doors for a somewhat broader public understanding of what the field of economics is all about. In the public debate, my sense is that “economics” tends to be understood as mostly comprising a series of very simple models indicating the desirability of laissez faire (make it more expensive to hire workers by raising the minimum wage and the level of employment will go down — supply and demand, economics 101, QED) that leave it somewhat puzzling as to how this is even a field in which people do PhD-level research. That, of course, isn’t right as you can see from The Economist’s poll of economists or John McCain’s struggle to find 100 economists who’ll back up his campaign’s assertions.

Meanwhile, Krugman has become known to a wide audience as a left-of-center newspaper columnist. The fact that he’s a credentialed economist has always been well-known, but the point that he’s actually a really well-regarded economist is not all that well-understood. But a Nobel Prize is something people understand. It doesn’t make his political pronouncements the word of God, of course, and there are Nobel Prize winning economists on the right as well. But it does underscore the fact that very many people who really and truly know what they’re talking about think the progressive approach to economic and social policy is the way to go.