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Paul Krugman Answers Mark Thoma

Question: Mark Thoma: Many predicted international imbalances and the crash for the dollar, why hasn’t that happened yet?

Paul Krugman: Well, I actually, you know, I was… I thought there were two big things, the imbalances and the housing bubble, and the international imbalance has not been at the core of it at all, and there’s this weird thing which has happened, which is that as the financial systems have come apart, what people want is safety and safety still mean US Treasury Bills. It’s a really surprising thing, in a way, because you might think there would be some concern about that, but, you know, one of the lines was the only thing some people are willing to buy right now are US Treasury Bills and bottled water, and the T Bills, you know, why not euro [short term debt], but apparently that still doesn’t, is not, that is not yet an asset of collateral in times of great danger, so… And in some sense, I guess it makes sense. You know, the US government debt is the safest asset in the world not because we have the most responsible government in the world but because if the US government goes, so does everything, so there are situations in which the US doesn’t honor its debt are also situations in which world civilization collapses, so it’s your ultimate safe asset. And, in the crisis, people are scrambling for Treasury Bills again, so instead of the dollar falling in all of this, the dollar has been rising.

Producer Brett Dobbs asked economist Mark Thoma to submit a question for Krugman. Here it is.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
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How Hemingway felt about fatherhood

Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.

Ernest Hemingway Holding His Son 1927 (Wikimedia Commons)
Culture & Religion

Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?

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How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

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The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

Videos
  • Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
  • "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
  • In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
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