Medium Matters

Doing the economics you run into this guy Paul Krugman every once in a while and you’re usually impressed. His papers are readable, theoretically enlightening and empirically relevant. One of my favorites is this one about the core and periphery in the world trade system.

And then there’s this NY Times columnist named Paul Krugman that is just terrible. He gets basic logic wrong. He makes wild, economically illiterate claims and he’s demonstrably biased and hypocritical.

And then there’s this great exchange between James Galbraith and this other guy named Paul Krugman. While arguing against trade as a cause of increasing inequality, he eloquently defends the use of precise notation in economics, he encourages the happy marriage of theory and data consummated on the importance of economic significance over the statistical or literary variety, and he observes the obvious, but often overlooked, truth that disagreement in a field of science doesn’t invalidate the whole of it. In other words, this incarnation of this Krugman fellow lays a smack down on Galbraith ((h/t Thoma)), i.e. do read the whole thing.

It occurred to me that these guys might actually — despite the large variation in disposition, cogency and temperament — be the same guy. I mean, that is a rather unusual name. Doing a google search on “Paul Krugman” pointed me to a blog authored by someone of that name. And what do you know? Its pretty good. He touches on many of the same topics as Paul Krugman the academic with the same mix of light but significant theory and data. He has an eloquent writing style like the fellow that had the exchange with Galbraith. He does have his moments of fire breathing similar to the columnist Paul Krugman, but those moments are few and brief.

I’m going to call it. These Paul Krugmans are all one and the same. The newspaper column is just a terrible medium for him.

3 thoughts on “Medium Matters”

  1. The explanation I heard goes a bit like this… sometime in the early ’00s, Krugman got scared by what the Bush people were doing and especially their communication strategy and the media’s cowardice, so he decided to dial up his own inner polemicist (read “political hack”) which culminated in his Conscience of a Liberal book, which was (perhaps justly) grilled for what people saw as historical inaccuracies and half-truths about the post-WWII era of fiscal activism.

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