Paul Krugman’s Four Rules of Research

A couple weeks ago, I drove to the Oregon coast with my sweetie, who is a Paul Krugman devotee. (Krugman is a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton and writes an op-ed column and a blog for the New York Times.) As we wound through the forest, the two of us were listening to a podcast of a conversation between Krugman and CUNY’s Peter Beinart. Of course, they mostly talked economics and politics, but for a few moments the discussion became about the art and craft of writing—specifically, the challenges that an academic may have when trying to write for a broader audience. Naturally, my ears perked right up. Krugman actually reveals his “four rules for economic research”: Question the question. Listen to the gentiles. Dare to be silly. Simplify, simplify. They’re straightforward tips, but you should really hear all he has to say about them. (I’d love to ruminate on them and unpack them in a proper blog post, but I’m really booked up to my ears with academic editing projects for two university presses right now. I’ve been disappointed not to have more time to blog and create Tweed resources this month!) So today I had a few minutes to transcribe the bit of the Beinart-Krugman conversation about writing, and I thought I’d share it with you all. What follows is just a rough, unedited transcription. By “unedited,” I mean that I only listened to the audio once while typing, and I didn’t even copyedit my own transcript. (As you can imagine, that’s out of character for me.) It is truly a crude rendering, but...