14 October 2008

Would I still see suspicion in your eyes?

So Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize for Economics*. As I spent most of yesterday engrossed in the reading room of the National Photographic Archive I didn't notice this announcement until later in the evening. My first reaction, like many others I suspect, was a decided "Ah wha?" sound.

When Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio was awarded this year's Literature prize, my reaction was "ah wha?", but that is as it should be; I am not a Francophone and to be honest the reasoning behind the choice of many recipients of this award has been rather oblique, though recipients are not usually as unknown outside their field as those in chemistry, physics or medicine. Peace Prize winners are usually pretty well known, Literature only slightly less known, and economists fall somewhere slightly south of physicists, but above chemists (sorry, but that's the way it is, I don't make the rules). However Paul Krugman is very well known, and in fact it is his visibility that caused my reaction.

Although I don't regularly read his NYT column, I have read a number of his collections, most recently "Conscience of Liberal", and although he is undeniably a strong economist, I would have placed him at the upper end of pop-economics** (higher than Steven Levitt, but not by much) rather than in the arena of pure academia. What sets Krugman apart from many of those mooted as candidates before the announcement*** (a list of names which most definitely did not include his), is the fact that he is an unapologetic neo-Keynesian, and a proponent of a new 'New Deal' economy to deal with these turbulent times.

When Jimmy Carter and Al Gore were both awarded their respective Peace Prizes, many took it as a sign of the committee's displeasure in the Bush doctrine and America's current role in the world. It is not unreasonable therefore to see the selection of Krugman as a similar statement against the neo-liberal policies pursued religiously in the US and elsewhere and directly responsible for the current financial meltdown.

Krugman is a great economist and writer, and an amazing champion of what passes for the left in the US. I'm just not sure if I can ignore the possible politics behind his selection, and unfortunately neither will his opponents.

* Yes, I know here is no such thing as the "Nobel Prize for Economics", but popular culture refers to it as the Nobel Prize and who am I to dispute populist nomenclature.

** Yes, it is a savage indictment of our time that there is even such a concept as "Popular Economics".

*** What he does have in common with those considered to be on the shortlist, and with every winner of the prize since it was inaugurated in 1969, is that he is a man. Yup, no woman has ever won it, even though in some years the prize was shared between up to three people. Guess how many women have served on the adjudicating committee in its entire history? About as many as have been awarded the prize by that committee. Who could have guessed?


Krugman's NYT column
Conscience of a Liberal


At 5:56 pm, Blogger Kate said...

comment on your jaiko update: 1% levy/2% levy not brave. Ill thought out and grossly unfair. This should never apply to people who currently outside the tax blanket - there is no way people on minimum wage should be expected to pay this.

I was geared up for an income tax increase, or a third bracket being added which allows those who can afford it to pay more back to the country whilst protecting those that cannot.

this budget has only hit the low to medium income earners. It's bailed out the builders and once again only congratulated those who've been responsible for the problems we're facing now. (commercial stamp duty decreased to 6% while residential TRS decreased to pay for this!)


very angry.

At 6:35 pm, Blogger Kate said...

and after the main budget the details are trickling out. so if your job is cut now - you have to show 24 months unbroken income in order to qualify for jobseekers allowance instead of 12 as previous.

so much for looking after those that need it most.

personally - I live in a rural area which means I have to drive to work (50 mile round trip daily) no public transport available. so now my petrol increased, my car tax increased, I'll be charged 200quid to park in work (company levy which of course will get passed on to me.)

At an income of 30k annually, I'm going to be hit and hit and hit again.

Top that with an increase in VAT (way to build consumer confidence) it's a budget that shows gov't isn't prepared to better manage their own spending , it puts the onus on the ordinary person.

should have cut spending, come down with an iron hand on the public sector and not increased all these taxes.

talked to sister 2.0 and she made a valid comment, do something about it, get political so I am.

At 9:21 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

very valid points, and agree 100%, something I will go into more detail tomorrow in a full post.

I meant "brave" in the 'Yes, Minister' sense of the word, where brave and courageous are terms civil servants use to refer to an action a minister has done that is politicly disastrous, or a 'career limiting move'.

Increasing the tax burned on those at the lower end of the wage spectrum is the worst thing he could have done right now, it makes no sense whatsoever.

At 9:29 pm, Blogger lusciousblopster said...

the last note is actually the most shocking and really the central issue of the whole post. 0 women, ever, in 39 years, awarded this prize. 0 women, ever, on the nominating committee. this is such a devastating problem that it may render everything to do with the prize unworthy of consideration of any kind, let alone respect. the fact that this has continued, for so long, for the most prestigious prize in a discipline, and thus must be seen as emblematic of that discipline, illuminates a colossal void at the centre of the discipline. it certainly leans towards the view that the prize, and a large proportion of economics as the discipline that endorses it, simply is not credible, but is an affront to humanity, and must be seen as such.


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