Krugman, and the Politicization of the Prize

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Some who hear the Nobel news might be surprised if they only know Krugman from his career as a left-wing columnist, not as an economist. To give him his due, the Princeton professor had a distinguished academic career stretching from the 1970s to the late 1990s — a period when it's fair to say he broke new ground in economics, particularly trade theory and economic geography.

During this time, he wrote three quite good books: "Peddling Prosperity," "The Age of Diminished Expectations," and "Pop Internationalism." He was a very good economist.

But then something happened: He fell off the political deep end, becoming at times an unhinged ranter against all things Bush, Republican and conservative. Nothing wrong with that, except it affected his once-lucid economic thinking.

Starting in 1999, when he began writing regularly for the Times, he started pushing weird, discredited left-wing economic notions in the media for all to see. Many in the economics profession were alarmed, to say the least.

He nonsensically argued, for instance,that 9/11 would have "favorable effects" on business investment and infrastructure spending, and that wealth disparities were bad because "if the rich get more, that leaves less for everyone else" — a statement that's false on its face, and not, as Krugman asserts, "simply a matter of arithmetic."

And, of course, he often argues strenuously in favor of redistributionist tax schemes that would hurt the economy and turn us into a slightly less stagnant version of Europe's welfare state.

Other economists were far more deserving than Krugman. Did the Nobel committee pick him mainly because he's a virulent critic of President Bush? (Recall, that was a reason for handing harsh Bush critic Jimmy Carter the Peace Prize in 2002, and widely surmised as the reason for global warming advocate Al Gore's prize, too.)

Much has been done to tarnish the Nobel brand in recent years, but nothing as much as the politicization of key awards that Alfred Nobel funded more than 100 years ago. Should we just strip his name from the honor and call it what it's become: the Bush Dementia Syndrome award?

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