Paul Krugman has won the Nobel Prize in economics. In the 1980s and early 1990s, I read plenty of what Krugman had to say about economics. It struck me as first-rate. In fact, Krugman’s reputation as an exceptional economist is what caused me to read him in the first place. I’m in no position to judge whether Krugman’s work from that era merits a Nobel Prize, but I suspect it makes him a colorable choice.
Eventually, Krugman veered off into left-wing commentary (I’ve always wondered whether it was President Clinton’s decision not to make him head of the Council of Economic Advisers that pushed Krugman in these directions — punditry and hyper-leftism; he wrote somewhat bitterly about that snub at the time). The economic analysis Krugman serves up in his New York Times columns is often an embarrassment. Obviously, op-eds are not the best format for sophisticated analysis, but there is no excuse for Krugman’s persistent fudging of data and inability to distinguish economc fact from partisan desire that Donald Luskin and others have chronicled over the years.
Unfortunately, it may well be the case that Krugman won his award due at least in part to his left-wing, anti-Bush commentary. Every year, we have occasion to note the leftist bias of the Nobel awards. The prizes seem to have become, in part, a method of rewarding Bush’s harshest critics, Al Gore and Jimmy Carter for example. If there’s a chemist out there who has written an anti-Bush op-ed, there may well be a Nobel Prize in his or her future.
The Nobel Prize is just another example of an institution whose veneration once crossed ideological lines, but that the left has long since captured. Other such institutions include the NAACP, the New York Times, Amnesty International, and (though it was never really venerated) the American Bar Association. The left’s “long march” through these institutions has deprived them of their credibility and their status as honest brokers.
In the case of the Nobel Prize, the money must be welcome. But as honors go, a Nobel Prize in anything relating to public policy is not much more meaningful than praise from the Daily Kos.
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