Tuesday, December 11, 2018

22 Days in Paul Krugman's Masterclass (Day 21) (How to Write About Economics for the Intelligent Masses)

Lesson 21 in Paul Krugman's Masterclass is 9 minutes and 53 seconds long.

In this lesson, Krugman provides thoughts on how someone should write economics for the layman---but there is a Krugmanite diabolical twist even in this teaching of basic writing of economics.

Most of this lesson can be of use to anyone starting a blog on economics. It is a pretty decent introductory level short lecture on how to write for the intelligent subset of the masses. That is how to write for the lower level secondhand dealers in ideas.

Krugman also admits in this lesson that he also writes his New York Times column for the staff members of those in Congress

"People always ask if I write for members of Congress. I reply, 'No, I write for their staff,'" he says.

But then Krugman as per usual goes off the rails.

He tells us that his favorite column was one he wrote in 2010, titled, "The Myths of Austerity."

The perspective in the article is typical Keynesian coprolite but he appears to be particularly proud of the turn of phrases and terms he uses in the column.

One he singles out is "invisible bond vigilantes" and says that he has noticed the use of the term has spread so much that people use it without saying "as Paul Krugman says invisible bond vigilantes."

But the curious thing about this is that the term "bond vigilantes" was actually coined  27 years before  Krugman wrote his essay. It was first used in 1983 by the economist Ed Yardeni.

From The Wall Street Journal:
In 1983, Yardeni, then a self-described pisher (roughly translated, a yiddish word for "greenhorn") of just 33, coined a descriptive phrase that has become part of the Wall Street lexicon and won him enduring fame. He described how bond investors -- or "bond vigilantes" -- would bring discipline to U.S. economic policy and hold inflation at bay.
So he seems to be taking credit for the appendage "invisible" to the term "bond vigilantes."

Whatever, it's Krugman.


Links to discussions of all Krugman's Masterclass lessons are here.


  1. He was and is still gloating over the fact that in 2009 -- and is apparently still the case until very recently -- no "bond vigilantes" had shown up to bring discipline to government economic policy. And he thought that was a good thing.


  2. I do believe I first heard the term "bond vigilantes" on Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street Week show back in the 1980's. Mr. Rukeyeser used it all the time along with "bond ghouls". Am I wrong? Doesn't Mr Nobel Prize have access to PBS?

  3. RichardR you're correct. Good ol' Lou had a good ear for catchy phrases and he loved that one particularly. I don't know who coined it or when, but it was heard early in Reagan's first term as Volcker was raising rates.

  4. By the way it was actually called Wall $treet Week. Great show with mature, intelligent, articulate, witty, knowledgeable people. Naturally PBS cancelled it. But Lou had a great run. Nothing like it today. O tempora, o mores!