Friday, February 02, 2007

Krugman and Ivins, Buchwald and Myself

Paul Krugman wrote a very nice tribute to Molly Ivins today, correctly identifying her as one of the few columnists who realized, as I did, that Iraq was likely to be a disaster from the beginning, and was prepared to say so. (My own comments to that effect appeared on the internet list H-Diplo, which searchable.) Molly died much, much too soon, but I couldn't help thinking how similar his tribute was to what I tried to do for Art Buchwald two weeks ago. He did it the same way I did--just by telling his readers what she had said. Of course, he was working in a more recent period, but the subjects of our pieces were parallel too. Ivins, like Buchwald, was writing about a hopeless war from the moment it began, if not before.

Krugman is one of a half-dozen or so contemporaries of mine for whom I really have enormous respect. The others include Bill Strauss and Neil Howe, whom I have written about a lot here; Bill James, the baseball theorist; and Camille Paglia, the literary critic who is exactly my age and actually has had, in many ways, a similar career (although she has been a little shorter on total output and longer on celebrity.) Of those five, I have gotten to know three. Krugman actually quoted something I had written in a piece he did in the New York Review of Books, namely, my observation that the US Constitution, which in the 14th Amendment states that the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned, effectively protects the social security trust fund. But my attempts to contact him personally have never gotten anywhere, and the same is true with Paglia, who seems to be something of a recluse. (Many of you have read the end of my book American Tragedy, and the last few pages are rather eerily similar to Paglia's comments on Woodstock in her book of poetry criticism, Break, Blow, Burn.)

I still hope to make contact with those two some day. I'm very sorry never to have met Molly Ivins and we are all really going to miss her. The Boom generation intellectually has been something of a nation of sheep ever since the late 1960s (although now we can distinguish between red sheep and blue sheep), but a few people retained enough individuality to do what Prophet generations are supposed to do. I'd like to think they will be noticed by future generations.

I have been traveling around the northeast this week and won't be back home until Sunday, but I'll try to do something more then.


Art Jacobson said...

I was very struck by your reference to a Prophet Generation, a concept with which I was unacquainted. I hope you'll expand a bit on that for those of us to whom it is a novel idea.

I always enjoy your columns.

Art Jacobson

Roger Albin said...

Professor Kaiser,

Your columns are generally insightful but you are carrying this Boomer generation characterization too far. As is commonly the case with people in the humanities, your definition of what constitutes intellectual activity is implicitly too narrow. Far from being a generation of intellectual sheep, the Boomer generation has produced the largest and arguably the most productive cohort of scientists in human history. This should be taken into account in your rather broad brush discussions.

Nur-al-Cubicle said...

The Silent Scientist Generation?