“The Accidental Theorist” – (Paul Krugman 1998)

“Let’s talk about inflation indexing and the meaning of life” (The Accidental Theorist- Page 191)

This quote effectively sums up Krugman’s book. An entertaining analysis of controversial economic topics, written in a highly readable yet informatively concise style.

Paul-Krugman

I started this blog in order to bridge the gap between the economic theory that is taught in the A-Level syllabus and current affairs. To do this, I imagined that I would create a series of “The Economist” style blogs, which would also allow me to discover new elements and fields of economics. Paul Krugman’s “The Accidental Theorist” is a series of short essay-like articles that embody what I wanted to create when I set about making this blog.

Krugman’s essay are short (ranging from 3-8 pages), yet cohesive and to the point. Unlike other economics books that I have read, Krugman is not tied down to focus on one specific argument or theory. Instead, he is given free reign to jump from the failure of the conservative revolution, to George Soros’ speculative conquests, to the discovery of a model for economic liquidity found in a babysitting-sharing scheme. Therefore, there is no sense of repetition unlike in other more comprehensive books such as Acemoglu’s 500+ page “Why Nations Fail.”

Indeed, (unlike certain other economists out there) Krugman’s essays are written in an informative yet witty style. An essay highlighting the danger of fixing a currency to a commodity such as gold begins “The Legend of King Midas has been generally misunderstood. Most people think the curse that turned everything the old miser touched into gold, leaving him unable to eat or drink, was a lesson in the perils of avarice. But Midas’ true sin was his failure to understand monetary economics.” As economists go, this is ground breaking comedy right here, and makes for a nice change to the reader from the usual technical economic terms thrown at you in other more typical economics books. Its overall readability meant that the book was genuinely enjoyable to read, that made its 200 page length even more manageable.

Indeed, the only downside I considered when reading this book is that the essay’s are now outdated in terms of their analysis of current affairs. The bulk of the essays were written over 20 years ago, hence Krugman constantly references Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Soros as current voices in economics, as well as analysing economic events that are no longer as relevant today. This was frustrating in the sense that I could not compare many theories he discussed to current affairs, but also informative in the sense that Krugman used what is now considered a historical perspective to back up or contradict economic ideas. Indeed, to this extent I found the most interesting essay to be “The Lost Fig Leaf : Why the Conservative Revolution Failed”(1996). Written over 20 years ago now, it was fascinating to analyse Krugman’s perspective on why the Republican right-wing rhetoric failed to gain traction in 1992 and 1996, against the current backdrop of the politic shift towards the right in Anglo-American politics.

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