Jagdish Bhagwati tells the story of Krugman’s first summer job as his research assistant at MIT. “I was in the middle of a paper on international migration. I gave Paul an outline of my thoughts—when he came back, he already had a finished paper, and I could not change even a comma! So I gave him the lead authorship.” Princeton’s Avinash Dixit has said that if Krugman were not so valuable to academics, “we should appoint him to a permanent position as the translator of economic journals into English.”

Indeed, Krugman is perhaps without peer among economists in the clarity and sharpness of his prose. Commenting on the changing rationale for the tax cuts of the Bush administration, he called them “an obsession in search of a justification.” His recipe for the Japanese deflation of the early 2000s was aggressive monetary expansion, and he called upon the ultraorthodox Bank of Japan to “credibly commit itself to being irresponsible.”

Keynes’s famous remark “In the long run we are all dead” is more widely quoted than understood. Here is how Krugman explains it: “What he meant was recessions may eventually cure themselves. But that’s no more a reason to ignore policies that can end them quickly than the fact of eventual mortality is a reason to give up on living.”

He raised questions about the plausibility of real business cycle theory by asking, “If recessions are a rational response to temporary shocks in productivity, was the Great Depression really just an extended, voluntary holiday?”


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