cover image The Return of Depression Economics

The Return of Depression Economics

Paul Krugman. W. W. Norton & Company, $23.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04839-1

As an economist in good standing, writes MIT economist Krugman, I am quite capable of writing things that nobody can read. Fortunately, Krugman, author of Slates Dismal Science column, is also quite capable of writing things that almost anyone can read. An accomplished translator of economics into English, Krugman (Peddling Prosperity; The Accidental Theorist; etc.) takes a look at the international financial turmoil of the past two years and concludes that, confident assertions of happy globalizers and bullish day traders notwithstanding, a great depression could happen again. Depression economics is back, he argues, meaning that for the first time in two generations, failures on the demand side of the economy... have become the clear and present limitation on prosperity for a large part of the world. Whether discussing the currency collapse in Indonesia, the travails of Brazil and Russia (and how theyre related) or the failure of hedge funds such as Long Term Capital Management, Krugman writes with invigorating lucidity and forceful opinion. Now as in the 1930s, however, one cannot defend globalization merely by repeating free-market mantras, even as economy after economy crashes. If his message is dire, his tone is light, almost jaunty as he calls supply-side economics a crank doctrine and ably articulates a Keynsian willingness to regulate markets in order to stabilize economies and minimize human suffering. Moving from concrete examples (e.g., the struggles of a Japanese baby-sitting coop) to stinging critiques of head-in-the-sand theorists, Krugman proves himself not only comprehensible but also well worth comprehending. (May)