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Writing Economics

Paul Krugman

Lesson time 09:53 min

Using his column “Myths of Austerity,” Paul demonstrates how he uses language, current events, and more to break down a complex topic while keeping the reader informed and engaged.

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


What you learn when you start to do a lot of public writing is that you have to respect your readers, but also accept that they're coming at this cold. They haven't been reading previous stuff. They certainly don't know any of the jargon. They actually don't want to learn any of the jargon. So rather than explain the jargon, your best bet is to just find a way of saying stuff without it. But if you're writing for four million people who read "The New York Times," they are not obliged to go past the first four words of your column. You better have a reason to keep them engaged. You always have to ask when you're writing something for the public, what am I trying to accomplish? Actually, who am I talking to? What do I want to accomplish? And my case, usually I'm talking to educated readers-- this is "The Times"-- people who are interested in the world, are actually pretty well-informed about events, but not at all informed about economics. I'm sometimes asked, do you write for members of Congress? The answer is, no, I actually write for their staffs. The member of Congress probably doesn't understand a blessed thing, but his or her staff people might. So they're actually kind of similar to my readers. I have a line that says that, if a column doesn't greatly annoy a large number of people, then you've wasted the space, right? If you're just doing a rah-rah column-- either side, by the way. I mean I'm kind of a guy to the center left, and my thrust is going to be against a lot of-- but if you're just doing something that is saying, Trump is bad, well, lots of people are saying that. How much are you actually adding? So you have to be making some point that people don't get, or you don't think people are getting. And if they're not getting it, it's probably because this was either hard for them to understand or something that cuts against their prejudices. And that's going to be a heavy lift to get it across. [MUSIC PLAYING] This is, I don't know, one of my favorite columns of the past 10 years. And it came about, so the background here is, we had this terrible financial crisis in 2008. But we stepped back from the brink of total collapse, 2009, but we were still deep in the hole, high unemployment. And one of the things that had happened was that everybody was running big budget deficits, which was actually a good thing. We needed to run those budget deficits as part of the way to support the economy. But inevitably, some people started to get worried about debt. And in Europe in particular, even more than here, there was a push demanding austerity policies. And there was also some academic research suggesting that maybe austerity policies are not a mistake when you have high unemployment, claiming to provide evidence that if you slash spending, that it would actually be good for the economy, because it would increase confidence. So I fought back against this, and I wrote a column in July 2010 called "Myths of Austerity."...

Think like an economist

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.


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

I have enjoyed every moment of this class ! He reiterates, as do other "Master", the need for analysis and critical thinking in regards to information. thank you!

Paul is very engaging and easy to understand. He explains complicated concepts in layman's terms.

Terrific! What a brilliant man with an amazing ability to make complex ideas accessible. Would be very grateful if you Masterclass would add more such overview courses on traditional subjects - world history, maybe Math? or at the very least mathematical thinking? Masterclass has been an amazing purchase overall. I'm a VERY satisfied customer :-) Cheers!

Paul is masterful in explaining concepts of economics in simple terms. I also appreciate his advice on critical thinking. He has a humble yet sure demeanor, which I appreciate.


C.N. S.

This lesson is really helpful for more than just economists producing text for public consumption. As a political scientist, I found this to be really useful information. I guess it's as Marshall McLuhan once said: Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn't know the first thing about either.


Anyone else notice the painting in the background move 36 seconds into the video?

A fellow student

I just spent the afternoon watching Paul Krugman's diatribe on conservatism thinly disguised as an economics lesson and was disappointed that it was included as a MasterClass. He comes to the conclusion that economic inequality beginning in 1977 was due to policies of the Reagan and maybe following conservative administration. He writes off the the rise of technology, automation and globalization. Instead promoting increased taxation an social programs which redistribute wealth as solutions to the inequality. He spends a great deal of time preaching about his ideas on Health Care, taxes, and social programs. Maybe economist and politicians don't understand that when it takes fewer folks the produce an item, there are fewer income taxes, And when these folks move to jobs where their primary income comes from tips, there are fewer taxes. In fact they have been completely left behind when it come to taxing our modern economy. They kill retail by not taxing internet sales and don't seem to understand how to deal with, and therefore tax, the value added by utilizing Big Data. In fact they allow the USPS to subsidies internet sales. They also don't understand how to deal with high tech financial transaction. This was obvious when Subprime Loans, not properly regulated, caused the financial crises, And continues as they tax trading profits as capital gains, where parasites, who never see or touch a product, make money off of trading that product. How can this not be regular income instead of capital gains? I'm not saying economic inequity doesn't exist. Just that Paul is trotting out the same old "progressive" solutions. It's time to address the real causes of the inequality. Of which cronyism on corporate boards is probably one. Maybe other nations have a better tax regime in Value Added taxes? Anyway I was disappointed that MasterClass rolled this program out as some sort of economics lesson. Please take it down or get it corrected.

A fellow student

Paul is a keen observer, analyst and engaging speaker. I am disappointed in the lack of solutions to world economic problems.


So your'e saying "make up" more article about Trump until everyone believe you.

Keely K.

I think political parties need to have economic resilience policies which would broadly outline what parties would do during an economic downturn (or crisis), for example, if the economy contracts by a certain percentage when Party A is in government, the policy would specify identified measures Party A would consider utilising to assist the economy. If the OCR (Official Cash Rate), or in the USA the Fed Reserve Rate, is cut by a certain percentage (or within a percentage band) Party A would outline that if in government the specific measures it would consider undertaking in that economic climate etc. I feel like this would assist in another level/layer of thinking and analysis of economies that would assist during economic downturns. Economic downturns happen relatively frequently too so they should be adequately prepared for. It is also good for voters to know this information and I think would assist in having a better functioning democracy. I also think that, as part of this, political parties should be estimating where their country is in its economic cycle and allocating a percentage of funding during its growth phases (that percentage might differ depending on which part of the growth phase the economy is in) that could be utilised during economic downturns. This would mean there would be much less need for harsh economic measures during downturns because governments would have prepared for downturns during their growth periods. Then hopefully there wouldn't be a need for arguments about austerity measures too.

RJane @.

Saying “Trump is bad” doesn’t change the fact the Electoral College(part of U.S. government) hired and elected Trump as the CEO and president of United States.

Graeme R.

Style and substance. That remarkable article from 2010 had both. What a lie fiscal austerity was, and how the Brits (David Cameron), Germans, and others made it sound plausible. I wish I had been more open to Paul Krugman then, instead of seeing him a reflexive liberal partisan.


I started liking this masterclass only after lesson 10 n overall it is an interesting one, I think most of us just had very high expectations 4 an economy class by a Nobel winner

Erik P.

I love the comments "this class could have been better". I wonder if we could have a button that automatically puts "this class could have been better" so that we can smack it on every lesson. For a couple dollars, I expect a comprehensive and easy to understand dissertation of decades of economic research and understanding. I imagine some people reading the bible and saying "well, Jesus could have been better"... I got my money's worth.