From Paul Krugman's MasterClass

Writing Economics

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.

Topics include: Rule #1: Keep Them Reading • Rhetorical Strategy Line by Line: “Myths Of Austerity” • Style Is Substance


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.

Topics include: Rule #1: Keep Them Reading • Rhetorical Strategy Line by Line: “Myths Of Austerity” • Style Is Substance

Paul Krugman

Teaches Economics and Society

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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 always found econ to be fun. To get Mr. Krugman's insight and perspective is quote great. I found his course enlightening.

Really really interesting and insightful, loved it!

Good introduction of a subject I really had not paid attention to sufficiently, yet was attracted to enough to choose it as my first classl. I've read Krugman in the Times for years, so was predisposed to his thinking approach.

Very informative. I feel as though I have a better understanding of this topic.


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.

Ondra S.

Although I mostly share Mr. Krugman's political views, I think he could have done a better job by actually teaching something and and covering the topics to a greater depth. I quite enjoyed listening to him but I do not think I learnt much besides what he thinks about American politics. On the other hand, I didn't buy the subscription because of this particular class so I am not complaining...

A fellow student

Nancy McClernan, Yes I did pay for the MasterClass series. Some classes are excellent and some could be better. I feel that Mr. Krugman"s class could have been far better if he had eliminated his politics and stuck to the subject of economics. Example: GDP is one major factor in economics. There are at least two ways of calculating GDP, neither of which he presented. In his presentation of the Graph, Interest vs GDP, he only touched on the factors involved. The Fed is NOT majic when presented adequately. Finally, Axelrod/Rove teach an excellent class on politics. Try that one to see the difference.

ArthurTong T.

Is it not somewhat dangerous that people took hold of terms like 'confidence fairy' and 'bond vigilante'? I realize that we want people to be engaged, but does collateral damage occur when we romanticize these things too much, even if its the stance we agree with?

Robert G.

Exactly. Balance is key. We need rich and poor people in our world because where else would I get my Timmys and compare my shitty little life with. LMAO! I am not very good at finance but learning to add has helped. Balance doesn't come easy but I earn my keep and spend it on courses like this. I consider an investment in me. Selfish but well earned.

Victoria W.

When writing a column- provacative with a discerning point- very good advice.

Jesse H.

Thoroughly enjoyed Krugman giggling over his use of "now now now" as "racy language."