What every economist, and for that matter every writer on any subject, needs to realize is that unless you are a powerful person and people are looking for clues about what you’ll do next, nobody has to read what you write — and lecturing them about what they’re missing doesn’t help. You have to provide the hook, the pitch, whatever you want to call it, that pulls them in. It’s part of the job.
Krugman is writing in response to Roger Farmer, an economist who accused Krugman of plagiarism. Krugman’s
takedown defense—he hasn’t read Farmer because his work is impenetrable and he fails as a writer—works as an indictment of Farmer, but I don’t think that it works as a defense of academics or journalists not engaging certain thinkers and books (which isn’t Krugman’s argument, but it’s one that can easily emerge from this line of thought.) The responsibilities of professional writers and readers are different. Much of academic writing is filled with jargon, and unfortunately academics are required to root through it, regardless of how poorly written or uninteresting it is. It’s part of the job.