THE NEW ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY, NOW MIDDLE-AGED

Jun 28th, 2015
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It’s almost exactly 20 years since I delivered a set of lectures in Leuven that became the monograph Geography and Trade (Krugman 1991a), which most people consider the beginning of the New Economic Geography. It has, from my point of view, been a great two decades – and not just because of that Swedish thingie.

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THE NEW ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY, NOW MIDDLE-AGEDPaul KrugmanPrepared for presentation to the Association of American Geographers, April 16, 2010Its almost exactly 20 years since I delivered a set of lectures in Leuven that became themonograph Geography and Trade (Krugman 1991a), which most people consider the beginningof the New Economic Geography. It has, from my point of view, been a great two decades andnot just because of that Swedish thingie.What you have to understand is that in the late 1980s mainstream economists were almostliterally oblivious to the fact that economies arent dimensionless points in space and to whatthe spatial dimension of the economy had to say about the nature of economic forces. You mayfind this implausible how could economists fail to take into account facts of life that are part ofeveryones daily experience? but I can assure you that it was true. I recall a conversation at oneconference on the new growth theory in which a fairly eminent economist challenged some ofus, in belligerent tones, for any evidence that increasing returns and positive external economiesactually play any important economic role. I think I replied Cities to be greeted with a stareof incomprehension.You might be tempted to say, so much the worse for mainstream economics and that, as Iunderstand it, has to a large extent been the response of proper economic geographers; indeed,over much of the past three decad

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