Three Nobels and a Funny Man

Paul KrugmanIt has been one year since Pope Benedict XVI resigned. I think that is hilarious. I don’t begrudge him, but if God really cared about who the pope is, why would he allow such a thing? Wouldn’t he just kill the old man and have things work the right way? As with most thing religious, it just doesn’t make sense. But there is no doubt that the new pope is a much better choice to head the Catholic Church. While I don’t think that Pope Francis is going to do anything radical, he has already started to reform a lot of the corruption that is in the church. And if Catholicism is to survive as a going concern, it must evolve. And I say that knowing, as many conservative Catholics seem not to, that the church has always evolved. Once upon a time, the Catholic Church did not believe that a fertilized egg had a soul. Now it does. Perhaps it will further evolve to the point of understanding that it doesn’t. Pope Francis could lead the Catholic Church forward; Pope Benedict could only have led it backwards.

Linus PaulingOn this day in 1901, the great scientist Linus Pauling was born. His work spanned a number of fields. He was, at base, a chemist. His first Nobel Prize was for his work on chemical bounds in complex chemical structures. According to Wikipedia, “His discovery of sickle cell anemia as a ‘molecular disease’ opened the way toward examining genetically acquired mutations at a molecular level.” This is why Francis Crick said he was the father of molecular biology. Later in his life, he became a peace activist. His work against nuclear weapons proliferation and testing won him a second Nobel Prize. He also had some controversial beliefs about the effectiveness of vitamins in combating cancer. But no one is right all the time. He was far greater than any man has a right to be.

Last year, the day went to the great actor Zero Mostel who was born in 1915. As I noted then, I especially like him because of the feud that he had with Mel Brooks (a well established asshole who isn’t capable of giving anyone credit for anything) during the shooting of The Producers. Here he is in the film:

Other birthdays: philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533); illustrator John Tenniel (1820); philosopher Ernest Renan (1823); screenwriter Ben Hecht (1894); pilot Jadwiga Piłsudska (94); actor Charles Durning (1923); actor Stanley Baker (1928); actor Gavin MacLeod (83); musician Brian Jones (1942); actor Bernadette Peters (66); actor John Turturro (57); and writer Daniel “Lemony Snicket” Handler (44).

The day, however, belongs to Paul Krugman who is 61 today. He is, as anyone who reads this blog knows, a great economist. His academic research was on deflation in Japan in the 1990s. That was perfect background for what has been happening in the west for the last seven years. The most important thing that he’s been saying since the start of this economic downturn is that inflation is not a problem. Slowly, it seems that liberal politicians have figured this out. Conservatives, of course, continue to think that hyperinflation is just around the corner. What’s really going on with conservatives is their belief that even the smallest amount of pain suffered by the rich is unacceptable. The truth is that if we doubled the current rate of inflation in this country, it would be a great thing for the working class. And it would not be that bad on the owning class. But given that the owning class also owns the political class, that will never be allowed to happen.

It is interesting that on this, his 61st birthday, Krugman also announced that he is leaving Princeton University to move to the Graduate Center, City University of New York. He says it is because his interests are now more in public policy than straight economics. Also, his life is more focused on New York. It still seems like an odd move, but I suspect City University is paying a lot for Krugman. Regardless, I like the idea of Krugman focusing more on public policy. I’ve always found his economic lecture slides kind of boring. But his outlook on the political environment is always insightful.

Happy birthday Paul Krugman!

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