Economists willing or able to appraise their dismal science and its arguable utility with something other than reverential solemnity are a decidedly rare breed. On the evidence of the ingratiatingly witty text at hand, however, MIT Professor Krugman (The Age of Diminished Experience, not reviewed) can and does subject a dubious discipline to the sort of analysis that could make it accessible as well as useful to the voting public. For all his wry commentary, the author is informed by a serious purpose: he wants not only to determine why the domestic economy is no longer growing at the pre-1973 rates that made America the envy of the Global Village, but also to uncover the reasons for decelerating gains in real income, an alarming spread in poverty, and related obstacles along the rocky road to perdurable prosperity. Toward these ends, he first warns that genus economicus encompasses two distinct species: academics (who pursue typically arcane research projects that, however slowly, can expand mankind's knowledge, if not immediate understanding) and policy entrepreneurs (high-profile go-getters willing to swap the approval of professional peers for acceptance by pols eager for simple, soundbite solutions to the frequently intractable problems affecting their varied constituencies). In this cautionary context, Krugman surveys cyclical swings in ideology over the past couple of decades, starting with the successful challenge mounted by the right against Keynesian precepts, high taxation, and the welfare state. Focusing, inter alia, on the persistent expansion of federal budget deficits, he next evaluates the checkered record compiled by conservatives in power. Covered as well is the subsequent discrediting of supply-siders, the concurrent emergence of their liberal counterparts (so-called strategic traders), and the renaissance of intervention theory. At the end of the day, the author proves himself an equal-opportunity critic who remains ready to be convinced that even one-note advocates might have something to contribute. An uncommonly sensible audit of socioeconomic fads, fallacies, and fashion.