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The Significance of Parrots, or Why Paul Krugman Won a Nobel Prize

Starting next Monday, the various Nobel Prizes will be announced:

The candidates for each prize are carefully vetted, with nominations submitted by university professors of the various disciplines (in the cases of the scientific prizes) and by members of national parliaments (in the case of the Peace prize), as well as past Nobel laureates.

But what sets one person apart from his or her colleagues? How do you judge the differences in excellence, or the impact one person has had on their field that goes beyond all the others? What is it that elevates one person to the rank of Nobel Laureate, and leaves the others out?

Perhaps a blogpost yesterday by Paul Krugman reveals at least part the answer:

Brad DeLong references the old line about economists being nothing but parrots who squawk “supply and demand! supply and demand!”, then argues that they seem to have forgotten even that.

Inexplicably, however, he fails to follow this thought through to its logical conclusion — namely, that economists are ex-parrots. They have gone to meet their maker. They are pushing up the daisies. They have joined the choir invisible.

Clearly, this reveals why Krugman is a Nobel Laureate and DeLong is not. You see, in addition to being able to take the argument one step further than DeLong, Krugman subtly displays yet more depth of knowledge.

For those unfamiliar with the Ur-ex-parrot to which Krugman refers, it is the Norwegian Blue.

Norwegian? Norwegian!?!?

The Nobel committee was obviously aware of Krugman’s knowledge of and appreciation for . . . ahem . . . Scandinavian heritage, as evidenced by the video above.

What I wouldn’t give for the Literature prize to go to John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael “no longer the funniest*” Palin, and Terry Gilliam. (Sadly, posthumous awards are prohibited, so Graham Chapman is ineligible.)

Either them, or TBogg. Satire is far overdue for recognition by the Nobel committee.


* Again with the parrots. Go figure.


h/t to the folks behind this YouTube channel for allowing such classic videos to be embedded elsewhere, like here. As they say:

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No more of those crap quality videos you’ve been posting. We’re giving you the real thing – HQ videos delivered straight from our vault.

What’s more, we’re taking our most viewed clips and uploading brand new HQ versions. And what’s even more, we’re letting you see absolutely everything for free. So there!

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.