Simon Johnson versus the Scumbags

In a pivotal scene from a recent episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, Lord Petyr Baelish hints at his knowledge of a secret potentially fatal to the Queen Mother, Cersei Lannister, and smugly warns her that knowledge is power. Her response is to order one of her bodyguards to cut his throat.

With his attention newly focused by the razor-sharp dagger under his chin, she reminds him that power is power, and that he’d do well to remember it.

Both are right, of course, but in politics, context is everything. That’s why I find it refreshing to watch Simon Johnson, MIT professor and former Chief Economist at the IMF, go after the academic economists who not only shill for the financial industry, but wax indignant when anyone calls attention to their shenanigans.

Back in 2006, Brad DeLong rejoiced that the Left had escaped its destructive embrace of Marxism. Reading Johnson’s appeal six years later, one wonders if someday we’ll be able to rejoice that the neoliberal academy has escaped its destructive embrace of Capitalism. That day may be nearer now than it was back in 2006, but I’m not breaking out the champagne just yet.