Paul Krugman on Gordon Gekko

Question: Many of your students went to Wall Street, do we need to change how we teach?

Paul Krugman: Oh, I guess, you know, I tend to be, I tend to think that the culture is a superstructure, you know, a little bit of Marxism there, that the economic fundamentals that, you know, it wasn’t a cultural thing that made so many of our students go to Wall Street, it was the fact that can make a lot of money very quickly that made them go to Wall Street. I mean… and that’s, that wasn’t a problem with our teaching, it was, you know, what was out there.

Question: That’s what I mean…The drive for money…

Paul Krugman: You know, but that’s… I think it’s conditioned, really, by just how big the money is. I mean, it was a lot easier for people to say, look, I want a fulfilling life, and so I’m going to become a college professor or a public interest lawyer or something like that, when people who went to Wall Street made two or three times as much as you would make in these worthy professions. When people in Wall Street are staring to make thirty or forty times as much, it’s a lot harder to be virtuous on those things, so I don’t… I don’t blame the kids, put it that way, and I don’t particularly blame their teachers, either, which is a little bit self-interested.

Question: Did this crisis result from simple issues of poor-practice?

Paul Krugman: No, I don't think so. I think we, there’s a very broad sense in which we forgot the lessons our grandfathers knew, and that’s how we got to this point. And, you know, in the absence of active policy, I think you’d be amazed at how much we could replicate the depression. I mean, I look at the numbers, projections of what’s likely to happen to private saving and private investment spending, coming out of places like Goldman Sachs, and those, in the absence of a physical stimulus and the absence of a financial rescue program, that’s going to produce unemployment well into double digits. So, we’re not talking about, you know, this is going to be just a nasty recession. If I didn’t think there was a stimulus program coming, if I didn’t think that there’s going to be another, [tarp] two or whatever to rescue the financial system. I’d say, well, maybe it wouldn’t be 1933, but it will be the worst thing, you know, anyone who doesn’t remember 1933 has ever seen.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist on America's culture of greed.

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