My son says I’m a nerd. Maybe he’s right. When I heard that Paul Krugman, 2008 Nobel prize winner in economics, scourge of the Bush administration, op-ed writer for the New York Times, was giving three lectures at the LSE on our current financial crisis, I was thrilled. Krugman may not be the Cassandra of our economic debacle (that would be either Nouriel Roubini or the long dead Hyman Minsky) but his analysis remains head and shoulders above most academics—who still seem desperate to show that their failure to predict the popping bubble doesn’t prove the bankruptcy of orthodox theory.
I decide to go online the second tickets became available. Of course I don’t manage get to my computer until 12 minutes later and by then, all seats to all three nights are gone. Krugman proves to be a tougher ticket than Bruce Springsteen. I guess I’m not the only economics nerd in London. No worries, I think, I’ll get in on a press pass. I inveigle the editor of American Conservative (which for some reason, despite its right-wing name, seems happy to publish my musings on the perfidy of financiers) to request a press ticket. No go. No press tickets left. Even Prospect, who I tell I’ll blog for free if they get me in has no luck with the LSE press office. Somehow I sweet talk my way onto the reserve list and show up at 5pm, an hour and a half before The Professor is to speak, to try and worm my way in.
Already people are lined up. I ask Mahmud, a retired economics professor if he thought back in 2006 that the bubble would burst. He nods his head. He didn’t know when, of course, but he didn’t think the exuberance that Gordon Brown and Alan Greenspan had staked their reputations on would last forever. “You don’t need Keynes,” he tells me, “just common sense.”
At 6:40 Krugman mounts the stage. I manage to slip into a seat in the back row, next to two young women from Central Bank News. He starts by noting the obvious: we are in trouble. World industrial output has already fallen as far as it had at an equivalent stage in the great depression and world trade…