Iâ€™m very happy to see this yearâ€™s Nobel Prize in economics going to Paul Krugman, whose columns in the New York Times helped me see the importance of the discipline of economics as nothing else ever had. I think Mormon scholarship could use more scholars like Paul Krugman (quite apart from the Nobel and the weekly NYT column).
I admit, the American left has at times had a certain degree of free-market skepticism. You know the kind of thing: you say â€œcapitalism,â€ I say â€œpollution! exploitation! imperialism!â€ and burn down your factory. And given our economic systemâ€™s periodic tendency towards wretched excess (cough, cough), market skepticism sometimes can seem attractive.
But Paul Krugman saved me from that. Beginning in the 1990s, his columns convinced me that about 75% of everything that matters gets said by economists; that studying economics does not unavoidably result in becoming a free-market fundamentalist; and that markets are not just compatible with a broadly liberal outlook, they are an essential tool to achieving liberal goals. Agrarian communal socialism might sound attractive at first, but in the end (sorry, Russell) I think I prefer a fair and efficient market economy where fewer lives are spent in hunger, pain, or in the service of tasks that are so boring and repetitive that any sane person would rather chew off their own fingernails. Perhaps itâ€™s worth noting that economic arguments are regular features of at least a few of the most popular liberal bloggers; without pretending any kind of historical analysis, Iâ€™ll merely suggest that Paul Krugman has been influential in helping progressives embrace market economics and free trade.
Mormon scholars, go and do ye likewise. If there is sometimes a wariness about academic disciplines in Mormonism, it seems to me that one can accept it by doing nothing, or one can worsen it by moaning, wrist to forehead, that the devotional materials published by the church could not be published in first-tier scholarly journals, or one can try to improve the situation by showing not just that the truth is true, but that it is both compatible with and useful in promoting the goals of Mormonism. That is a devotional project that would not appear in scholarly journals, but it strikes me as a faithful scholarship that would be worth having.