Best Conversation of the Day

fudgeThere are a lot of potential conversation partners at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians.  I had some great chats today with friends and fellow historians.

After attending a great session on religious geography in early America (I am hoping the good folks at Process blog will Storify the session.  If not, I will eventually do it),  I had hoped to attend and live-tweet Paul Krugman’s plenary address on the uses of history in public debate.  But when I arrived at the room it was already packed.  I wanted to see Krugman, but I can’t tweet unless I am seated with my laptop.  So I took another lap around the book exhibit and eventually read the twitter feed.

As I left the exhibit to head back to my room I was tempted by the amazing candy and fudge stand in the lobby.  It was here that I met Joe, the hotel staff member who was working at the stand.

Joe asked me what area of history I studied.  When I told him that I was a historian of early America who writes a lot about religion, Joe’s eyes widened.  We spent the next 30 minutes talking about American evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Finney. (And he sold me a white chocolate peanut-butter cup).  Joe was reading a book that offered a critique of the new atheism, so we talked about that.  It turns out that Joe attends a local Assemblies of God congregation in Providence and was really interested in American religious history. He had a lot of  questions and I did my best to answer them.  I also learned a lot about his personal story. We had similar backgrounds.

Joe was really interested in learning more about Butler’s plenary address (tomorrow night) on the religious history of modern New York City.  He said that he was not working that night and might be interested in coming, but he worried that he would not be allowed to attend. I told him to come anyway.  I hope that was OK.

If we are serious about reaching public audiences with good history, we need to be having more conversations with people like Joe.

One thought on “Best Conversation of the Day

  1. Ideological incest never fails to amuse.

    Paul Krugman? Aside from his reliable enthusiasm for Democratic Party orthodoxy and relentless bashing of the right [both of which are agreeable to an overwhelming majority of academia], what possible reason could there be to pay an economist to pontificate on the uses of history? [Indeed, the irony is that his Nobel came from work on free markets and free trade, which would make your average Bernie Sanders fan blanch!]

    When it comes to proponents of Keynesian economics, none has a broader stage or influence than Paul Krugman. For almost a decade now, Krugman has used his New York Times column to promote both Keynesian economic policy and the Democratic Party’s agenda, as well as to mock opposing economic theories such as the Austrian business-cycle theory (which he labeled the “hangover theory” in his infamous Slate article from 1998). It should come as no surprise, then, that the Mises community has taken up intellectual arms in a variety of forums against Krugman’s attacks. From economist William L. Anderson writing his aptly titled blog, Krugman-in-Wonderland, to Robert P. Murphy’s challenging the Nobel laureate to a moderated debate, proponents of Austrian economics have developed a special place in their hearts for critiquing Krugman.

    Though Krugman may play for the “other team” in economic theory, I have always found his writing style entertaining. So I was pleasantly surprised to see many bloggers who promote the Austrian point of view commending an older, lesser-known book of his, Pop Internationalism. The book is a collection of 13 essays highlighting the benefits of free trade and showing the fallacies of protectionism. I had already suffered through Krugman’s more popular The Conscience of a Liberal and The Great Unraveling, so I figured I would take a chance and spend the money for a used copy in order to see what all the hype was about. After all, Krugman won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to “new trade theory,” not for his continuing calls for massive stimulus spending and raising taxes on the rich, nor for accusing conservatives of being monsters bent on impoverishing the whole country…


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