Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

Sunday I was watching Fareed Zakaria GPS, and I was struck by something. You see, he had Paul Krugman on, along with Steve Forbes (Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media), Chrystia Freeland (Global Editor-at-Large of Reuters) and Bret Stephens (of the Wall Street Journal). Paul (excuse me, Mr. Krugman, if I am so forward as to call you by your first name) took the position that the Occupy Wall Street movement is a good thing because it reminds us how we first got into this financial mess in which we find ourselves, and reminds us that we haven't done anything to address the problems leading up to our financial collapse.

Ms. Freeland seemed to agree with Paul, at least on many points, while Mr. Forbes and Bret seemed to disagree, Bret more strongly than Steve. I've recently seen Paul on other shows as well, and frequently those opposed to his opinions seem to dismiss him as not understanding the way things work (it seems like human nature to say to those with whom we disagree, "You don't understand - you've missed the point."). I find this quite odd, as Paul won a Nobel Prize in 2008 for an economic theory relating to how free trade affects globalization, specifically how some countries do very, very well while others do poorly.

Meanwhile, Steve, though a business man, seems to have spent most of his time in journalism. Likewise, Bret may have attended the London School of Economics, but at the tender age of 28 he landed the job of editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, and is currently deputy editor of the editorial page at The Wall Street Journal. I therefore assume he, too, is more journalist than economist.

If anyone in this group can say, "Excuse me, you don't understand economic behavior," it would be Paul. (I leave Chrystia out of this because she did not poo-poo Paul's theories).

Paul is an economist who writes a column. I follow Paul on twitter because I like his posts. I have taken to reading at least some of his blog entries because I like what he has to say. I am no economist, and there are things about which Paul speaks that I simply do not understand. In such cases, I have to ask myself, who do I trust? Just like Sunday. Do I trust Steve, a business man who may be protecting his own interests? Do I trust Bret, someone with training in economics but who has spent his whole professional life on journalism? Or do I trust the Nobel laureate who knows economics and has little interest in doing anything other than informing me (us) on how we can make things better?

I would not ask a reporter who writes articles on medicine to treat my cancer - I would go to an oncologist. The reporter may know quite a bit about medicine, but the oncologist is the clear choice. Likewise, I will always give more credence to the Nobel Prize winning economist than the reporter with an economics background.

GO PAUL! and #OWS!