Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Paul Krugman Incorrectly Claims Credit For Calling Worsening Income Distribution "Fractal"

Paul Krugman has just claimed primacy in identifying a lengthening upper tail in income distibution to mean that income distribution is "fractal."  He did so in 1994 in his book Peddling Prosperity.  I have just tried to make the link, but as so often seems to happen, it is not working. So, here is the url that any of you can go get at to check, http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/11/me-and-me-blogging-inequality-metaphor-division . (Maybe it will work now)

Anyway, it may well be that he independently came up with this link.  But he certainly was not the first one to make the link.  That would be the person who coined the term "fractal," namely the late Benoit Mandelbrot in his 1982 book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature. Among other matters he discusses in that book is Pareto's power law distribution that was initially developed to model income distribution, with Pareto inaccurately arguing that he had found a universal law.  Such distributions are notable for their upper tails that are longer than such alternatives as the log-normal or Boltzmann-Gibbs.  As it was, Mandelbrot used the term "fractal" as applying to such power law distributions, so he did it first.

Barkley Rosser


Myrtle Blackwood said...

Great! Means the ultra-wealthy can be taxed like crazy to fund the revolution in solar and wind energy, upgrade the public transit system and bring back viable forms of public housing etc.

ProGrowthLiberal said...

I think replacing me-and-me with me-me-me-me will make the link to PK work properly. Maybe PK should edit his post to say he was the first to use the term in an economic context.