Is Paul Krugman still an economist?

This question came to me the other day. Really, it did, and I think we need to reconsider whether we consider Paul Krugman an economist. Hear me out.

First, I have to admit, this might be a straw man. I realize that the New York Times does not specifically refer to him as an economist, yet they mention that his current academic research focuses on currency crises. To that, I have to ask, “What research?”

GDP growth? Or Krugman's work?

Here’s a graph of the number of hits on JSTOR searching by author for “Paul Krugman” gets you. I didn’t make any effort whatsoever to parse out book reviews and glorified summaries from actual peer-reviewed research. This is everything JSTOR has for the man.

One point does not a trend make. But what about 15? Over the last 15 years, Krugman’s work in the JSTOR database has declined significantly, down to nearly nothing or a mere trickle over the past few years.

My argument is that “economist” is an occupation, much like “economics professor” or “columnist.” I believe that there is a compelling argument to be made that Paul Krugman is not, in fact, an economist. I think the substantive difference lies mainly in semantics, but I think it says a lot about Krugman that he has become quite comfortable writing a weekly column berating practicing economists from his bully pulpit on high rather than getting his own hands dirty. It is much easier to cast blame when you absolve yourself of plausible culpability.

Sounds like a moral hazard problem to me.


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