12 Dec 2013

In Defense of Paul Krugman

Krugman 21 Comments

On Facebook a younger person was asking us old timers what it was like when the Internet first came on the scene in force, and I couldn’t resist relaying this gem:

“By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.”Paul Krugman, 1998

But then it occurred to me: Maybe Krugman was simply overestimating how important the fax machine would eventually become?

21 Responses to “In Defense of Paul Krugman”

  1. Tony N says:

    But you see, Bob, Krugman uses the grammatical construct “has been” rather than “will have been.” So, clearly, want Krugman really meant was that by 2005 we’d look back at the internet circa 1998 and realize that its impact on the economy as of 1998 really was quite meager compared to what it would amount to eventually. Clearly, the internet’s impact on the economy became far more substantial after the deflation of the tech bubble. Geesh.

    Besides, think of all the ass-cheek photocopies the fax machine is responsible for transmitting throughout corporate America over the years. You simple can’t quantify the impact of this of sort thing, so dismiss its importance at your peril.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Tony N. by 2030 or so it will be clear that this has been the greatest comment ever left on Free Advice.

      • Tony N says:

        Good times. Good times. 🙂

    • Major_Freedom says:

      That’s hilarious.

      What’s even more hilarious is that there is almost certainly at least Krugman apologist who tried to do what you masterfully just did.

      • Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

        I feel like defending Krugman on “Free Advice” would make great training for aspiring law students. You really do have to come up with incredibly unique ways to justify things that are quite clearly absurd.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          The Chewbacca defense

      • Tony N says:

        Oh yeah. I had a few in mind, MF.

        • Ken B says:

          Be careful with that! Tony wrong and Bob right? I almost dialed 911.

    • Ken B says:

      I do hope you are joking, otherwise I must, alas alas, agree with Bob and disagree with you. Krugman is discussing predictions of the future that look silly in retrospect. So he is indeed saying by 2005 we will see that *as of 2005* the impact of the internet has been no greater than the fax.

      • Tony N says:

        Definitely joking, Ken B. But I don’t blame you for your uncertainty, since, as MF points out, this kind of gymnastics goes on a lot around here when Krugman is involved.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          They should rename Poe’s Law into Krugman’s Law.

    • Richie says:

      Holy crap, this comment is Kuehn-esque.

    • Mike M says:

      Ahhh yes but with the internet, you can now scan and email those ass cheek images with greater efficiency. I submit Krugman is nothing more than a closet Luddite protecting the interests of fax machine repair men. 🙂

  2. Innocent says:

    What are talking about. I have complex discussions and voice my opinion and purchase large volumes of goods via fax all the time. Name one thing the internet has that a fax machine does not have in spades. I mean it is not as if I could internet over a signed document right? And again how many scans of the buttocks have been sent via ‘internet’ you people crucifying Krugman for obvious malicious reasons. After all he has a Nobel prize he is an expert in all things.

  3. Major_Freedom says:

    From the same page:

    “As the rate of technological change in computing slows, the number of jobs for IT specialists will decelerate, then actually turn down; ten years from now, the phrase information economy will sound silly.”

    Following Tony N’s lead….

    Clearly by “sound silly” Krugman is really saying that information technology will become so pronounced, so widespread, that the phrase “information economy” will sound as silly as other pronouced and widespread activities, such as talking and writing. I mean come on you Krugman haters, nobody says “Talk economy” or “Writing economy”!




  4. William Anderson says:

    The main problem with Krugman is that he is not an economist. An economist would have recognized that the Internet allows information to travel much faster than it did pre-Internet. I’m not talking about rumors or viral videos, but rather the kind of information that is needed to make business transactions more efficient. (In other words, it lowers real costs.)

    To Krugman, however, a cost is nothing more than an arbitrary number that government can reduce by fiat.

  5. Cosmo Kramer says:

    I’ve never screamed at the internet. Now fax machines……

  6. David R. Henderson says:

    Bob, Did you notice who wrote a piece in the same issue in which the author challenges Krugman? Not on this issue but I did write pieces for Red Herring challenging his view on this.
    Here’s the piece I wrote in that same issue of Red Herring: http://web.archive.org/web/19980610100252/http://www.redherring.com/mag/issue55/econoclast.html

  7. sore says:

    Here’s an explanation for you, early Kruggie: the state ate the progress and the empire of evil feeds on yet another increase of us peasants producing wealth – the ‘no greater then a fax machine’ thingy.
    “most people have nothing to say to each other!”
    I think that is kind of telling what he thinks about us peasants. We just don’t have anything to say to each other. How could we? LOL 😀

  8. Blackadder says:

    I love the fact that the title of this Krugman column is “Why most economists’ predictions are wrong.”

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