Business, Community & Government

Reading Economics

Paul Krugman

Lesson time 12:58 min

Paul teaches you how to read and interpret developing economic issues in order to stay informed. Learn his personal tools and techniques for spotting critical, accurate information in breaking news.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: How to Stay Informed • Read Skeptically • Is It a Real Experiment? • Spot Bad Facts • Avoid Writers Who Never Make Mistakes • Revision Is a Good Thing


There's an awful lot of nonsense in economics. Some of it's said with great passion and authority because economics, there-- people have stakes in it and people have prejudices. Stuff-- there's lots of stuff that people want to believe or the people who have money and power want you to believe. And being able to winnow that, being able to get through and say, OK. That-- that's not a real argument, or, those facts are not true. This is something that sounds serious. Learning how to sort through and figure out what-- what parts are fake and what parts aren't is probably the most important thing. [MUSIC PLAYING] So I start my day. I read a couple of standard, you know, mainstream sources. I start-- start with the-- with the "New York Times." I'd have to say that even that wasn't true, but it is, in fact, true. I love "The Washington Post." I will look-- I often just look at-- actually at Bloomberg just to see more businessy slant on what's happening. I'm a big fan of Vox, which is a--, which is a sort of analytically-oriented news reporting and has quite a lot of good stuff there. I do do Twitter. I tweet myself, although I never ever look at the responses. And I have about 30 people I follow. Then just hyperlink hop, right? You find something that is helpful, but will often lead you to something else, which will lead you to something else. But put in a 45 minutes or an hour, and that doesn't sound like much to me, because that's what my life is built around. But you spend-- or even half an hour just skimming these things every morning, and you're going to have a-- a pretty good sense of what are the issues that are-- that are bubbling up at the moment. [MUSIC PLAYING] A couple of things are good guides to whether you're at least seeing a serious argument. And one is just to ask, is there an argument, or is it just assertions? So I've had a couple of times where, you know some, op-ed's been published, and people will send me-- to me and say, what-- what do you think of this argument? And I'll say, I don't see any argument here. I just see a bunch of assertions. I don't see that there's any logical chain of thought or any evidence. It's just, this is bad. We must not do this. And if we do this, everything will be great. And so, you know, ask-- ask yourself, leaving aside the question of style of forcefulness, where is the argument? How-- what-- what is the basis for this person's assertions? Then if it is, an actual argument you want to think a little bit, does it-- does it hang together? And that-- that could be hard. But you might want to just ask internally, does it actually seem to make sense? By and large, bad ideas that prevail are-- are simple. They're-- they're easier to-- to grasp, easier to state than-- than the good ideas. I think Mencken said something about for any-- any complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, clear, and wrong. There's always someone who has this, here's-- ...

About the Instructor

For Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman, economics is not a set of answers—it’s a way of understanding the world. In his economics MasterClass, Paul teaches you the principles that shape political and social issues, including access to health care, the tax debate, globalization, and political polarization. Heighten your ability to read between the lines and decipher the underlying economics at play.

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Paul Krugman

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman teaches you the economic theories that drive history, policy, and help explain the world around you.

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