Monday, June 4, 2012

Still my favorite Krugman quote

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” -- Paul Krugman

Ironically, a lot of the people I know who enjoyed the Lord of the Rings went on to have a lifetime love of learning and an interest in history or mythology. That seems to be a positive social good, despite the very reactionary message of the book (Michael Moorcock rightly notes that a lot of the book is mourning for the loss of a more innocent age due to the industrial revolution). But I think what makes it work to motivate people is the message that the actions of everyone (even the little people) count -- a message that was perhaps over-hyped in the films.

In contrast, Atlas shrugged is an extreme example of the great man theory of history.  The special and gifted people carry society forward, eternally on watch for the parasites that comprise the common herd. 

One brings people together and the other tears them apart.  It’s an important difference. 

EDIT: See the comments... it looks like I mis-attributed this quote.  Sorry, all


  1. great quote, not coined (though probably popularized by) Krugman, though:

  2. Thank you for the catch on the source of the quote