I have tried reading Krugman for several years but I just can’t do it. I picked up Return of Depression Economics when I was a junior in high school, but I couldn’t finish it. I use to subscribe to his blog, but I simply found him impossible to read on a daily basis. I couldn’t even finish Pop Internationalism.
The biggest problem I have with Krugman is that he gets too caught up in his own perceived brilliance, and he has a tendency to become quite smug and condescending. This usually becomes a problem because he isn’t often right, so reading him just makes me want to find him and then punch him dead in the face. Arrogance is only amusing when you’re right.
Anyhow, Pop Internationalism isn’t all bad; Krugman manages to make a couple of good points. They’re mostly contained in the first four chapters, so if you do eventually feel like reading this book, you needn’t bother reading beyond chapter five.
In the first place, Krugman is correct in noting that countries are not corporations, nor are they comparable to corporations, at least in terms of competitiveness. The idea that the United States “competes” with Japan (or Germany or Britain or etc.) is a rather strange notion, and a fallacious one to boot. Trade is not necessarily win-lose, which, come to think of it, sounds quite strange coming from Krugman. As such, trading with Japan isn’t an inherently destructive behavior. However, it is possible that trade can have negative consequences. It should simply be noted that trade is neither inherently good nor inherently bad. It can be either.
In the second place, Krugman correctly notes that, accepting the concept of competitiveness for sake of argument, a nation’s ability to compete in the global market is more closely tied to domestic production policy instead of foreign trade policy. Stated more clearly, taxes and regulations play a larger role in international competitiveness than do tariffs and trade agreements. As such, the proper policy prescription for encouraging competitiveness in the global marketplace is deregulation and corporate tax cuts.
Overall, Pop Internationalism starts with a bit of a bang, then dissolves into self-congratulatory mental masturbation. The first couple of chapters are thoughtful and thought-provoking, but everything after that is nauseatingly narcissistic. Read at your own peril.