First, he discusses a basic question: Is the field of economics actually making progress? At present, his judgment is no:
KRUGMAN (9/27/11): I’ve never liked the notion of talking about economic “science”... Still, when I was younger I firmly believed that economics was a field that progressed over time, that every generation knew more than the generation before.That's a remarkable judgment. But as he continues, he asks a second question. In effect, he asks if economists are even trying to get things right. Again, the answer is no:
The question now is whether that’s still true. In 1971 it was clear that economists knew a lot that they hadn’t known in 1931. Is that clear when we compare 2011 with 1971? I think you can actually make the case that in important ways the profession knew more in 1971 than it does now.
I’ve written a lot about the Dark Age of macroeconomics, of the way economists are recapitulating 80-year-old fallacies in the belief that they’re profound insights, because they’re ignorant of the hard-won insights of the past.
KRUGMAN: What I’d add to that is that at this point it seems to me that many economists aren’t even trying to get at the truth. When I look at a lot of what prominent economists have been writing in response to the ongoing economic crisis, I see no sign of intellectual discomfort, no sense that a disaster their models made no allowance for is troubling them; I see only blithe invention of stories to rationalize the disaster in a way that supports their side of the partisan divide. And no, it’s not symmetric: liberal economists by and large do seem to be genuinely wrestling with what has happened, but conservative economists don’t.In our view, this pattern can be observed in all sorts of areas and disciplines. In many areas, it escapes the simple division of conservative versus liberal. Whatever explains our past as a nation, we simply aren't a very bright or honest people at this point in time.
And all this makes me wonder what kind of an enterprise I’ve devoted my life to.
Our experts aren't smart, and our experts aren't trying. It seems to us that these observations describe the culture's decline.
Alas! In many areas, the lazy, lousy work is coming from the culture's "liberals." It's very easy to get paid for being stupid these days, as long as you keep telling tales that send thrills up targeted legs.
The growing dumbness isn't all political. On the other hand, most of it is mercantile in some way. It connects to the desire to sell pleasing, predictable stories to some target audience which waits to be pleased. At any rate, it seems to us that the dumbness and phoniness Krugman describes are actually all around.