In This Review

The Accidental Theorist: Essays on the Dismal Science
The Accidental Theorist: Essays on the Dismal Science
By Paul Krugman
W. W. Norton, 1998, 192 pp

Who says economics can't be fun? This book gathers 27 short essays by Krugman, professor of economics at MIT. Many first ran in Slate, Microsoft's on-line journal. They range from China's trade surplus and Japan's economic slump through the Mexican and Thai financial crises to American traffic jams and Medicare dilemmas. Krugman's economics are largely mainstream and conventional, his style informal, irreverent, and often whimsical. But he is bitingly serious in exposing the logical fallacies or empirical errors in what too often passes for insight or wisdom in political and journalistic circles. He does not spare the left but saves special irritation for those who still espouse extreme supply-side economics, despite overwhelming evidence against their theories. Krugman's subtext is that a little systematic thought can protect one from grossly fallacious conclusions based on mountains of data or hundreds of anecdotes. Not a substitute for a good textbook, but a thoroughly enjoyable introduction to the power of economic reasoning.