Bush critic Krugman wins economics Nobel

PRINCETON, N.J. — Paul Krugman, whose relentless criticism of the Bush administration includes opposition to the $700 billion financial bailout, won the Nobel prize in economics Monday for his work on international trade patterns.

The Princeton University professor and New York Times columnist is the best-known American economist to win the prize in decades.

The Nobel committee commended Krugman's work on global trade, beginning with a 10-page paper in 1979 that knit together two fields of study, helping foster a better understanding of why countries produce similar products and why people move from the small towns to cities.

Krugman is best known for his unabashedly liberal column in the Times, which he has written since 1999. It also appears in the Herald-Leader. In it, he has said Republicans are becoming "the party of the stupid" and that the economic meltdown made GOP presidential nominee John McCain "more frightening now than he was a few weeks ago."

But at a news conference, Krugman said he doesn't think he won the prize because of his political views.

"Nobel prizes are given to intellectuals," he said. "A lot of intellectuals are anti-Bush."

Tore Ellingsen, a member of the prize committee, acknowledged that Krugman was an "opinion maker" but said he was honored solely for his research.

"We disregard everything except for the scientific merits," Ellingsen said.

After last year's Nobel Peace Prize award to former Vice President Al Gore and 2002's peace prize to former President Jimmy Carter, some on the right have dismissed the Nobels as politically motivated. By picking one of the best-known voices on the left three weeks before a presidential election, The Royal Swedish Academy is sure to provoke further criticism.

But academic economists said Krugman's work merited the prize.

"The prize was rightly given for his early academic work on the theory of international trade, not his more recent work as a political pundit," said Harvard economist N. Gregory Mankiw, former chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

Krugman, 55, was the sole winner of the $1.4 million award, which typically is shared by two or three researchers.

He is the rare academic economist who is also part of pop culture. A YouTube video of Krugman's joint appearance with Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly on Meet the Press has been viewed by more than 100,000 people. Besides being a co-author of textbooks, he has written two best-sellers, The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century and The Conscience of a Liberal.