"These days what I do is say that 2+2=4"

Paul Krugman is a brilliant economist and writer. His columns in the NY Times are must-reads: always informative, educational and merciless. He is one of those rare pundits who also happens to be (gasp!) well-informed. His last column is on Gore and the Nobel peace prize.

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,” said F.D.R. “We know now that it is bad economics.” These words apply perfectly to climate change. It’s in the interest of most people (and especially their descendants) that somebody do something to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but each individual would like that somebody to be somebody else. Leave it up to the free market, and in a few generations Florida will be underwater.

The solution to such conflicts between self-interest and the common good is to provide individuals with an incentive to do the right thing. In this case, people have to be given a reason to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, either by requiring that they pay a tax on emissions or by requiring that they buy emission permits, which has pretty much the same effects as an emissions tax. We know that such policies work: the U.S. “cap and trade” system of emission permits on sulfur dioxide has been highly successful at reducing acid rain.
Which is not exactly news, but the more well-informed, rhetorically skilled people say this, the better.

Many economists mention Krugman as a possible winner for the Nobel Prize in economics himself, incidentally.

Anyway, I think I might have mentioned that he also has a wonderful blog where he shares little bits and pieces of interesting information which lead into his columns, or in which he answers questions that arise after his columns have been published. A sort of way of continuing the debate in the backstage area.

Also, there's this video interview of Krugman. At one point he says that he worries about the state of democracy in the US: "What I worry about is that we'll keep the forms, but the reality will just erode. Like the Roman senate kept meeting for a long time after the country had become, in effect, a monarchy." He also talks about how there is no longer non-political truth. He says that most of what he does these days is saying that 2+2 = 4 and getting called an extreme leftist for saying so. Special bonus in the interview: he reveals that he is a science-fiction fan and that a fascination for Isaac Asimov's Foundation series led him into economics.

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