Theater of the Austere

Paul KrugmanWe could use a bit of levity, could we not? Paul Krugman posted a short play that apparently one of the commenters posted somewhere at The Irish Economy. If you know anything at all about what has been going on in Europe or even just a little about who Paul Krugman is, you will find this quite amusing.

Basically, the idea here is that the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi (Drachet), wants to do things to “help” the patient (e.g. Portugal) that are based on long-discredited economic theories. Paul Krugman (deKrugman) is pointing out the absurdity of his approach. Much hilarity ensues.

All I’ve done is fix a little formatting and some of the typos. Enjoy:

Scene: A spacious drawing room in Frankfurt. A patient is strapped to a table. M Drachet in attendance, plus admirers.

M Drachet: Our diagnosis for this fellow is an excess of partying, too much of the punch-bowl, a surfeit of humours, grass corpulence and a palpable debt overhang. Our remedy? Leeches!

Enter Mr deKrugman, a plain talking Yankee.

Mr deKrugman: Hold your hand, sir! The patient is weak. Leeches will only distress his condition further.

M Drachet: Oh that annoying fellow. Even your fellow Americans agree that leeches are the cure.

Mr deKrugman: Not any more they don’t. They’ve changed their minds.

M Drachet: Really? Never mind—bring on the leeches.

Mr deKrugman: Rather than leeches, this fellow needs an infusion of fresh blood to recover.

M Drachet: Are you volunteering?

Mr deKrugman: You, sir, can create all the blood you wish and you know it.

M Drachet: Balderdash.

A fop whispers in M Drachet’s ear.

M Drachet: Well that’s news. But you forget, our medical charter expressly forbids it. And you miss the nicer point, if we were to do so, this fellow would learn nothing from his foolishness and return to his profligate ways.

Mr deKrugman: Are you trying to cure the fellow, or teach him a lesson?

M Drachet: A soupcon of A and a morsel of B. Now, the leeches.

The leeches are applied, and the patient becomes noticeably paler.

Mr deKrugman: Told you.

M Drachet: You really are the most arrogant fellow.

Mr deKrugman: Says the man with the leeches.

M Drachet: But this is part of the cure! You see he is being purged, in being purged he will ultimately return stronger.

Mr deKrugman: Or dead like that poor Greek fellow.

M Drachet: And anyway, you quite misunderstand. It is not the leeches that make him pale, but, er, that, that and la bas!

Mr deKrugman: You’re pointing at a bunch of random things.

M Drachet: Not at all, I’m pointing at fetid air! Contagion I tell you. Stop looking at the leeches.

Mr deKrugman: Look, are the leeches to teach a painful lesson or to help the patient get better?

M Drachet: Can they be both?

Mr deKrugman: No.

M Drachet: To be honest monsieur, we do it because we’ve always done it. But our meticulous research shows that if the patients have, er, died in the past—it wasn’t the leeches fault! It was, um, something else!

Mr deKrugman: I strongly recommend an infusion of fresh blood.

M Drachet: But if we tried something new and it proved better, why our reputation for competence would be in tatters—you laugh sir?

Mr deKrugman: No sir, I weep. I weep.

They continue to bicker as the bloated leeches suck happily at the patient.

That’s actually quite accurate. The writer is incorrect, however: America has not changed its mind. Half or more of the political elite still think that austerity is the way to go. I weep.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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