Grant McDermott bio photo

Grant McDermott

Assistant Professor
Dept. of Economics
University of Oregon

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Paul Krugman is the ultimate polarising force. People either love him or loathe him. I suppose that's what comes with the territory when you are, arguably, the world's most high profile economist.

Anyway, seeing as I referred to him in my previous posts on climate change and food prices, here are two links that seem kinda relevant.

1) Roger Pielke Jr has a post criticizing Paul Krugman's citiation of extreme weather events in which he questions any causation between long-run carbon levels and food prices. I left a comment saying, among other things, that I regard his invocation of the historical food record as tempting the gods of false equivalence. I also think that he's being uncharitable in his basic reading of Krugman's argument. Still, it's an interesting debate with thought-provoking points raised on both sides... I'd especially like to see whether more people pick up on my comments about Norman Borlaug and the possibilities of another "Green Revolution".

2) Back to PK himself, who, in commenting on the American Economic Review's "Top 20" papers of the last 100 years, had this to say:
It’s also worth noting that a number of the papers on the list involve very simple, intuitive models — that includes Friedman on the natural rate, Krueger on rent-seeking, Mundell on currency areas; Shiller’s great piece on stock volatility was also a remarkably simple concept yielding a powerful insight. My own paper was actually pretty math-heavy; uncharacteristically, it’s also a paper in which doing the math fundamentally changed my mind about things (I didn’t believe the home market effect was real until it popped out of the equations; only then did I realize it was obvious.)
Hmmm. Sounds kinda familiar...
Further, and I would say more importantly, [maths] enables us to fully work through the consequences and dynamics of [economic] relationships. Our intuition may suggest certain outcomes, but intuition can be pretty limited in scope. Working through a set of equations enables you to arrive at a final result with a cool clarity, which may then show up unexpected results that only become “intuitive” upon further reflection.