Penetrating analyses of urgent, controversial problems.
Krugman (Economics/City Univ. of New York; End This Depression Now!, 2012, etc.), winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, gathers more than 90 articles, most from his New York Times columns, lucidly explaining often confounding economic issues. Prefacing each of 18 sections with a cogent overview, the author takes on topics that include social security, health care, the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath (essays that comprise more than a third of the book), the myths of austerity, Europe’s economic problems, tax cuts, trade wars, inequality, climate change, and, not least, the damage being inflicted by Donald Trump and his enablers. Many of the pieces are hard-hitting arguments against zombie ideas, “an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.” Zombie ideas, Krugman asserts, are put forth by “influential people” who “move in circles in which repeating” such ideas “is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity.” Alternatively, ideas such as climate change denial, which persist despite prolific evidence, are “better described as cockroach ideas—false claims you may think you’ve gotten rid of, but keep coming back.” There are plenty of villains in Krugman’s crosshairs: the “anti-labor” extremist Brett Kavanaugh, “flimflam man” Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Bernie Madoff, George W. Bush and his “fraudulent march to war,” and Ronald Reagan, to name a few. Many essays focus on the current president. “It’s not just that Trump has assembled an administration of the worst and dimmest,” writes the author. “The truth is that the modern GOP doesn’t want to hear from serious economists, whatever their politics. It prefers charlatans and cranks, who are its kind of people.” Krugman is a serious economist who detailed his intellectual focus and style in a 1993 essay, “How I Work.” He cites four rules that guide his research: listen to intelligent views; question the question; “dare to be silly”; and “simplify, simplify.” All serve him—and his readers—admirably.
Shrewd, witty, informed essays that are much needed in our anti-intellectual age.