Monday, August 8, 2011

Paul Krugman lives his words

I hope that readers will forgive a personal anecdote.

Over the weekend, Paul Krugman wrote a blogpost entitled "Pulling Rank:"

I don’t have time right now to track down all the examples, but if you look at how many freshwater macroeconomists have responded to Keynesian arguments in this crisis, you find over and over again that they resort to assertions of privilege — basically, I am a famous macroeconomic expert and you aren’t — rather than really addressing the issues. And this is so ingrained a response, apparently, that they use it in situations where it’s truly ridiculous: Lucas accusing Christy Romer of not understanding basic macro, then demonstrating that he doesn’t understand Ricardian equivalence; Barro belittling the credentials of yours truly, just after forgetting that there was rationing and investment controls during World War II. 
Now for the anecdote part.  When I was a Ph.D. student in economics at Wisconsin, my advisor, Bob Baldwin, invited me to present a piece of our joint work at an NBER Conference called "Trade Policy Issues and Empirical Analysis."

I remember the night before the presentation--I had gotten to meet many of the people whose papers I had read in my graduate classes: Leamer, Feenstra, Rodrick...and Krugman.  It was at once a thrilling and scary experience, and when I went to bed that night, contemplating my audience for the next day, the fear took over from the thrill.  Let's just say that by the time morning rolled around, I am guessing my stomach had never been emptier.

I gave the presentation, and as best as I can tell, it went reasonably well.  I very much doubt he would remember it, but afterward Krugman, the young MIT full professor new trade theory rock star, came up to me, the nobody, Wisconsin graduate student,  to give me encouragement and advice on the paper.  He was very respectful--even collegial.  I will never forget it.