Our stories: morality vs stuff happens (Paul Krugman quotation)

“Everyone loves a morality play. ‘For the wages of sin is death’ is a much more satisfying message than ‘Shit happens.’ We all want events to have meaning.” — Paul Krugman, “How the Case for Austerity had Crumbled,” New York Review of Books, June 5, 2013

Krugman is often my source for interesting one-liners or neologisms. What I do think Krugman misses in this quotation (from an admittedly longer and more complex article) is that while stuff happens, there is also a human tendency to want a more complex agent than an accumulation of events–or a mistake. Yes, we want to give meaning to events and stories, and the meaning in my mind is much more interesting than (dull, drab) reality. It’s this impulse that in extreme forms can power conspiracy thinking.
Krugman’s piece is an interesting review of the theory behind austerity, primarily as it has played out in Europe, but also in the GOP. 

By Paul Romaine

Paul Romaine is a grant writer and independent curator in New York City.

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