I don’t know what’s better about this New Yorker profile of Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman: the image of him as a St. Croix beach bum, his declaration that at 28-years-old he saw the world as smart vs. stupid and wouldn’t have time senators or politicians, or that he became an economist because of science fiction and that in turn informs his political fire.
Krugman explained that he’d become an economist because of science fiction. When he was a boy, he’d read Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy and become obsessed with the central character, Hari Seldon. Seldon was a “psychohistorian”—a scientist with such a precise understanding of the mechanics of society that he could predict the course of events thousands of years into the future and save mankind from centuries of barbarism. He couldn’t predict individual behavior—that was too hard—but it didn’t matter, because history was determined not by individuals but by laws and hidden forces. “If you read other genres of fiction, you can learn about the way people are and the way society is,” Krugman said to the audience, “but you don’t get very much thinking about why are things the way they are, or what might make them different. What would happen if ?”