Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Beautiful Mind II: The Revenge of the Economist

I have discussed this issue a couple of times, how my favorite "economist deserving of a thorough Fisking" Paul Krugman used to actually be a respectable economist. I came across this article of his from the 90s while surfing the web today.

So let's continue. Suppose that our economy initially employs 120 million workers, which corresponds more or less to full employment. It takes two person-days to produce either a hot dog or a bun. (Hey, realism is not the point here.) Assuming that the economy produces what consumers want, it must be producing 30 million hot dogs and 30 million buns each day; 60 million workers will be employed in each sector.

Now, suppose that improved technology allows a worker to produce a hot dog in one day rather than two. And suppose that the economy makes use of this increased productivity to increase consumption to 40 million hot dogs with buns a day. This requires some reallocation of labor, with only 40 million workers now producing hot dogs, 80 million producing buns.

Then a famous journalist arrives on the scene. He takes a look at recent history and declares that something terrible has happened: Twenty million hot-dog jobs have been destroyed. When he looks deeper into the matter, he discovers that the output of hot dogs has actually risen 33 percent, yet employment has declined 33 percent. He begins a two-year research project, touring the globe as he talks with executives, government officials, and labor leaders. The picture becomes increasingly clear to him: Supply is growing at a breakneck pace, and there just isn't enough consumer demand to go around. True, jobs are still being created in the bun sector; but soon enough the technological revolution will destroy those jobs too. Global capitalism, in short, is hurtling toward crisis. He writes up his alarming conclusions in a 473-page book; full of startling facts about the changes underway in technology and the global market; larded with phrases in Japanese, German, Chinese, and even Malay; and punctuated with occasional barbed remarks about the blinkered vision of conventional economists. The book is widely acclaimed for its erudition and sophistication, and its author becomes a lion of the talk-show circuit.

Rather cogent and logical stuff. Even a right wing hack like me could agree with that. Unfortunately he has now fallen into Bush hatred driven dementia where facts and logic no longer matter, only his image of paranoid loss and persecution. Maybe Ron Howard will do a movie on him? Come back to the light side Paul. Don't give in to your hatred. I still see the good in you. OK, I am mixing my movie metaphors.