Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nobel experiment

Economists and author Steven Landsburg notes the economic ignorance displayed by a well-known NYT columnist:

It’s always impressive to see one person excel in two widely disparate activities: a first-rate mathematician who’s also a world class mountaineer, or a titan of industry who conducts symphony orchestras on the side. But sometimes I think Paul Krugman is out to top them all, by excelling in two activities that are not just disparate but diametrically opposed: economics (for which he was awarded a well-deserved Nobel Prize) and obliviousness to the lessons of economics (for which he’s been awarded a column at the New York Times).

It’s a dazzling performance. Time after time, Krugman leaves me wide-eyed with wonder at how much economics he has to forget to write those columns. But today’s, on why America should consider European-style employment protection, is his masterpiece.

[E]xactly which brilliant European policies does Krugman believe the U.S. should now consider with favor? Among others, labor rules that discourage firing and incentives for “short-time work schemes”, where everybody puts in fewer hours. You’ve got to admire the effort it took to get from Nobel-quality economic analysis to the sort of stuff that economics professors around the world work so hard to drill out of their less talented freshmen.

If you want to increase employment by making each worker less productive, there are lots of ways to do it besides short-time work schemes. Instead of making them work half-days, we could require all manufacturing workers to work with one hand tied behind their backs. Or we could really handicap them by filling their brains with nonsense. Krugman to the rescue!
The latest in outsourced economic criticism, as a cost saving measure in these difficult financial times.

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