Krugman’s Nobel

by cactus

There seems to be a fair amount of anger in some corners about Krugman’s Nobel. A few thoughts about the complaints:

1. Kary Mullis believes in astrology. William Shockley was certain that black people were inherently mentally inferior to white people. Mullis received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), the technique used to make copies of DNA. Being brilliant in one field doesn’t guarantee one isn’t a complete idiot in another field. So whether you think Krugman’s political views are nuts, or Mullis’ views on astrology and extraterrestrials is insane, or Shockley was a racist scumbag, it has nothing to do with whether they deserved the prize they received or not.

2. Most people who criticize Krugman don’t seem to like the fact that he’s been calling GW’s policies stupid for the past eight years. Considering that none of GW’s policies actually worked as advertised (remember the debt that was going to be paid down, or how the economic boom of the 90s was going to continue?), Krugman would be less, not more worthy, of a Nobel if he hadn’t been railing against the stupidity.

3. I actually agree that Krugman has, at times, let his political views lead him a short way down the same path Mankiw have taken on the right. (See here for a contemporaneous comment criticizing Krugman.) But my suspicion is that the Krugman and the Mankiw paths differ on one key aspect – Krugman seems willing to attack the side he sees as the greater of two evils come what may, whereas Mankiw seems willing both to attack the side he sees as the greater of two evils and to defend the side he sees as the lesser of two evils come what may. I never met the man, but I don’t expect him to be a staunch defender of any sort of stupidity coming from an Obama administration, or any other Democratic administration for that matter. My guess is he’ll call bull**** when he sees it, regardless of who peddles that bull****. Its not Krugman’s fault that the folks Mankiw defends are the ones most likely to peddle bull****, and it doesn’t in any way invalidate Krugman’s work.

4. Krugman, like the rest of us, is no doubt sometimes wrong. But many of the attacks on Krugman are for not agreeing with unprovable philosophies about how the world should work. Disagreeing with Krugman on an issue which you cannot defend with numbers and data does not make him wrong, much less invalidate the work for which he was awarded a Nobel. And if your problem is that these days Nobels aren’t awarded to allergic-to-data Austrian school fellows, you should have been more upset that the prize for which such story-tellers are eligible went to Le Clézio this year.
by cactus