Paul Krugman on science fiction's relationship to economics


In this long interview with Wired, Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman talks about the relationship between science fiction and economics. Krugman says he was inspired to pursue economics by Asimov's Foundation series (he's written the introduction to a forthcoming commemorative edition) and praises Charlie Stross for the economics work in The Family Trade books.

Wired: In the movie Star Trek: First Contact, a character asks Captain Picard how much it cost to build the Enterprise, and he replies, “The economics of the future are somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves, and the rest of humanity.” What do you think about that?

Krugman: I will say, even with all my science fiction-y stuff, that in economics … it’s not that things never change, but they change much more slowly — the underlying principles change much more slowly — than most people imagine. You can read John Maynard Keynes or Irving Fischer from the 1930s, and except for a few archaic turns of phrase it looks like they’re describing what’s happening right now. My friend — and actually fellow science fiction fan — Brad DeLong at Berkeley, actually says that Walter Badgett’s book from the 1870s about financial crises reads better than most of the articles you’ll see in the popular press these days.

It’s true that the laws of economics are really quite different for the 21st century than they were in the 15th century, because we didn’t really have many of the features of a market economy back then. And maybe by the 24th century it’ll be different again, but I’m not so sure about that optimistic view of Captain Picard. One thing I think we see is that greed has a way of breaking through, no matter what we do on other fronts.

Economist Paul Krugman Is a Hard-Core Science Fiction Fan (via Making Light)