wealthcycles.com / By The WealthCycles Staff / February 22, 2013
A new opera based on, of all things, an argument between two different economic philosophies, will premiere this spring. Meanwhile, the argument that inspired the musical work continues to simmer: Does economic austerity work? As Michael Maloney might say of a similar arguments over the efficacy of free markets: “We’ve never tried it.”
Last year financial columnist and sometime comedian Paul Krugman, evidently miffed at the good press the tiny Balkan nation of Estonia was getting for its apparent economic turnaround, posted a blog article denying that Estonia’s austerity program was a success. Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves responded in a huff, via Twitter, to defend his nation’s honor, with a frankness of language rarely exhibited by a chief executive. The global media, of course, delighted in the conflict, and for a day or three the snit dominated international headlines.
It was one of those purely verbal altercations that amount to a hill of beans and typically blow over as quickly as they erupt, the public’s attention soon lured off to other diversions. But this particular online back-and-forth piqued the imagination of another sort of communicator, the composer Eugene Birman.
In the January 21 All Things Considered segment featured here, NPR host Peter Siegel interviews Birman about his new opera, Nostra Culpa – Our Fault.
Based on the vitriolic debate that erupted this past summer between Krugman, who writes a Keynesian-flavored New York Times column, and Ilves, the opera follows the story of two opposing economic viewpoints on financial recovery.
Like all operas, Nostra Culpa is filled with tension, animosity and contradicting opinions. Unlike most operas, Nostra Culpa follows the economic travails of a modern economy, an economy that Estonian officials and the International press has hailed as a great success and evidence that austerity works. In his own inimitable manner Krugman takes exception to the characterization of Estonia as a success story. In his June 6, 2012, blog post, Estonian Rhapsody, Krugman said this: