Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Saturday, February 27, 2010

THE PRODIGAL SON

When my copy of The New Yorker arrived, I paged thought it, as I always do, to look at the cartoons. Along the way, I came to a long article about Paul Krugman, but I turned the page [I very rarely actually read The New Yorker], and continued on my way. Several of you have now written me emails asking whether I had seen the article, so this morning, over breakfast, I soldiered through it. As you might expect, it put me in mind of The Gospel According to St. Luke, Chapter 15. [That is a bit of show-boating on my part. I actually had to do a bit of Googling to locate the parable of the prodigal son].

Leaving aside all the fluffy stuff about the Krugman's Caribbean getaway, and such, what the article reveals is that for most of his professional life, this supposedly brilliant man was mind-numbingly stupid about American politics and just about everything else in the real world that does not relate to his particular millimeter of the intellectual spectrum. His reward for being clueless is a Nobel Prize in Economics [nothing unusual there] and a New York TIMES column. The rest of us, who have always known how the real world works, are expected to kill the fatted calf and welcome home the prodigal son who spent most of his life squandering his intellectual patrimony. for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. Amazing grace indeed.

As it is in heaven, so is it in this benighted land. The good sons [and daughters], those of us who said from the outset that the Bay of Pigs invasion was wrong, that the overthrow of Mossadegh was wrong, that the Viet Nam war was wrong, that the support of the Contras was wrong, that the Iraq war was wrong, that the Afghanistan war was wrong, that Wall Street was a den of thieves, that the health system was broken -- all of us, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, who have been decrying the evils of American foreign and domestic policy for our entire lives, are derided when we first speak, and then ignored when we have been proven right. Meanwhile, the prodigal sons, who squander America's moral and economic patrimony, are welcomed with the tinkle of bells and the clanging of cymbals and the killing of the fatted calf when, late in the day, they come to the truth and announce it as though no one before them could or did see it.

Well, the Lord may work in mysterious ways, but I don't. I will forgive Krugman for his lifetime of ignorance and stupidity after he acknowledges, in print, all those who saw and said the truth during those long years when he was blind.

I am tempted to add some well chosen words about the appalling stupidity of the Economics profession in the United States, but too many people have done that already. These economists, after all, are the people who snigger condescendingly whenever Karl Marx's name is mentioned. [The great Paul Samuelson on Marx: "a minor post-Ricardian autodidact." Inasmuch as Samuelson was the author of the most successful textbook ever written, I have always thought that this sneer had more to do with Marx's being self-taught than with the content of his writings.]

Selah

3 comments:

Ann said...

Thanks for complying with the requests of your readers! This is very helpful.

I am wondering if Krugman is positioning himself for some new position, and/or new book....This description of his supposedly apolitical past is not quite correct, in my view.

In the early 1990s, he was writing and giving talks entitled "Is Free Trade Passe?"....His work on economies of scale is heretical within the economics profession... His highly qualified support of a government role in the economy (industrial policy) is likewise controversial...

So, as hard as it is to believe, within the economics profession, Krugman is a radical.... At the latest economics convention, he dared to ask why the profession didn't see the global recession coming, in a widely attended session (I'm not sure how much press it received).

That is, he does, in my view, soften his message in that audience of professional economists (although I find his NYT Op Eds refreshing...)

He himself did not predict the housing bubble, and was a late-comer after Roubini and Shiller....it must be said.

But given the current state of the profession, this is the best we have....and a Nobel Prize winner for credibility....

Let's watch and see where he is going. In my view this article is not as "innocent" as his presumably apolitical past.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I have no doubt at all that in the economics profession, Krugman is an iconoclast. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. I am just tired, after all these years, of the fact that those of us who have been consistently right are always dismissed. It seems never to occur to anyone that if we were right so often, maybe we are right now. Oh well, as Henny Youngman used to say, I don't get no respect.

Ann said...

Don't forget the admiration and appreciation of your global readers, students, and blog fans, that highly discerning group! :-)