In case people are confused, Paul Krugman drives me bananas not because he’s a Keynesian, but because he’s an unfair bully who mocks people on his blog. Look at this:
2. Paul Ryan requires that his staffers read Atlas Shrugged. I mean, I was inspired by Isaac Asimov, but I don’t think I’m Hari Seldon — whereas Ryan, it seems, really does think he’s John Galt.Time to bring out the classic quote:
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.
Future historians will giggle at our expense.
Now it’s good that Krugman engaged in a pre-emptive strike on himself; he couldn’t merely mock Ryan for being a fan of a novel, because in the New Yorker profile of Krugman we read:
Krugman explained that he’d become an economist because of science fiction. When he was a boy, he’d read Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy and become obsessed with the central character, Hari Seldon. Seldon was a “psychohistorian”—a scientist with such a precise understanding of the mechanics of society that he could predict the course of events thousands of years into the future and save mankind from centuries of barbarism. He couldn’t predict individual behavior—that was too hard—but it didn’t matter, because history was determined not by individuals but by laws and hidden forces. “If you read other genres of fiction, you can learn about the way people are and the way society is,” Krugman said to the audience, “but you don’t get very much thinking about why are things the way they are, or what might make them different. What would happen if ?”
With Hari Seldon in mind, Krugman went to Yale, in 1970, intending to study history, but he felt that history was too much about what and not enough about why, so he ended up in economics. Economics, he found, examined the same infinitely complicated social reality that history did but, instead of elucidating its complexity, looked for patterns and rules that made the complexity seem simple. Why did some societies have serfs or slaves and others not? You could talk about culture and national character and climate and changing mores and heroes and revolts and the history of agriculture and the Romans and the Christians and the Middle Ages and all the rest of it; or, like Krugman’s economics teacher Evsey Domar, you could argue that if peasants are barely surviving there’s no point in enslaving them, because they have nothing to give you, but if good new land becomes available it makes sense to enslave them, because you can skim off the difference between their output and what it takes to keep them alive. Suddenly, a simple story made sense of a huge and baffling swath of reality, and Krugman found that enormously satisfying.
OK, so since Krugman says he’s not nearly as weird as Paul Ryan, surely if we follow Krugman’s link, we’ll read that Paul Ryan…I don’t know, is building a gulch somewhere. Nope, here it is:
Representative Paul Ryan, also of Wisconsin, requires staffers to read Atlas Shrugged, describes Obama’s economic policies as “something right out of an Ayn Rand novel,” and calls Rand “the reason I got involved in public service.”
“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.” …
At the Rand celebration he spoke at in 2005, Ryan invoked the central theme of Rand’s writings when he told his audience that, “Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill … is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict–individualism versus collectivism.”
So you can see why Paul Ryan is a geeky weirdo who lives in fantasy land, whereas Krugman was probably the homecoming king in high school such is his cool machismo.
(Just to be clear, I don’t think I am the Italian Stallion. In fact, Italians and Irish often don’t get along.)