TBTF Erratum, 1/14/98: A dismal science indeed

Keith Dawson (dawson@world.std.com)
Wed, 14 Jan 1998 21:07:37 -0600


TBTF Erratum, 1/14/98: A dismal science indeed

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This erratum: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/01-14-98.html >

They call economics the Dismal Science and I'm beginning to under-
stand why. MIT economist Paul Krugman has called into question
almost everything about the New Yorker article on economist Brian
Arthur and his involvement with the theory known as "increasing
returns," described in TBTF for 1/12/98 [1]. This theory sheds
light on Microsoft's ascent to monopoly status.

In an article [2] titled "The Legend of Arthur: A Tale of Gullibil-
ity at The New Yorker," published yesterday, Krugman credibly dis-
putes much of the factual basis of New Yorker correspondent John
Cassidy's description of the history of the idea of increasing

> Increasing returns wasn't a new idea, it wasn't obstinately
> opposed -- and if increasing returns play a larger role in
> mainstream economic theory now than they did 20 years ago,
> Arthur didn't have much to do with that change. Indeed, the
> spread of the Arthurian legend is a better story than the
> legend itself: an object lesson in journalistic gullibility.

Here is Krugman's chronology [3] of events in the development of
the theory of increasing returns.

In the Dismal Science the facts are hard to discern. The New
Yorker's vaunted fact-checkers were, I assume, all fired years
ago in the barbarian takeover of that magazine. Please read
Krugman and make up your own mind.

Thanks to three alert readers who pointed out Krugman's article
to me within 15 minutes of its coming online.

[1] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/01-12-98.html#s01
[2] http://www.slate.com/Dismal/98-01-14/Dismal.asp
[3] http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/arthur.html

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