The Accidental Theorist

A culmination of twenty-seven essays, Krugman tackles economic issues across a whole spectrum. His style is unreserved and he's unafraid to state his case.

Though his essays are adaptions from past publications one underlying theme remains consistent throughout - systematic thought always beats flawed conclusions based off of empirical errors and logical fallacies. 

Love him or loathe him, there is almost certainly something for everyone to learn from reading the book. The following summary-review is a brief taster of what can be learnt.

Book Review

Politically-motivated idealogues

Though the twenty-seven essays do not share a common genre, one of Krugman's most persistent frustrations was apparent: politically-motivated idealogues.

An excellent example of this frustration could be found in The Lost Fig Leaf. Ex-presidential candidate Bob Dole stated in a speech:

"Somewhere, a grandmother couldn’t afford to call her granddaughter, or a child went without a book, or a family couldn’t afford that first home because there was just not enough money. … Why? Because some genius in the Clinton administration took the money to fund yet another theory, yet another program..."

Krugman rebuked this with some facts about the current government spending:

These figures accounted for 82.2% of 1994 U.S. fiscal spending.

What's important to note is that many items on the list were supported by Dole's policies, such as defense.

Moreover, many welfare expenditures were benefitting the allegedly victimised elderly (remember that "grandmother [who] couldn't afford to call their granddaughter..."), such as Social Security.

On Capitalism

Krugman has described his political alignments as 'liberal' or "what social democratic means in Europe."

Nonetheless, his opening spiel on Part 1: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs condemns the inhumanities of capitalism, whilst simultaneously validating it as an unsurpassed system:

"At the heart of capitalism's inhumanity ... is the fact that it treats labor as a commodity. Economics textbooks may treat the exchange of labor for money as a transaction much like the sale of a bushel of apples, but we all know that in human terms there is a huge difference ... An unsold commodity is a nuisance, an unemployed worker a tragedy; it is terribly unjust that such tragedies are created every day by new technologies, changing tastes, and the ever-shifting flows of world trade. There would be no excuse for an economic system that treats people like objects except that, as Churchill said of democracy, capitalism is the worst system known except all those others that have been tried from time to time..."

His remarks seem 'old-fashioned', considering the rising discussion regarding a post-capitalist world. But perhaps they should be considered, after all, it is rare for new economic ideas to come about.

Conclusion

Anyone who's come across Krugman's works understands his arguments are difficult to dispute. Further, his writing style - though light-hearted - breaks down the most complicated arguments many audiences can understand.

Whether or not his economic dispositions are right, I cannot be sure - after all, systematic thought can be inherently dysfunctional -  however, one thing can be agreed, all economists should be in the fight against pernicious logical fallacies and inapt empirical evidence.

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