As many observers have noted, Paul Krugman won this year's Nobel Prize for Economics because of his academic work on trade, as opposed to his writing for more popular audiences. But I think it would be a mistake to separate the two bodies of work completely.

Assessing Krugman's work is a bit above my pay grade; truth be told, I know very little about it. But, as the New York Times noted today, "Mr. Krugman’s models have been praised for their simplicity and practicality--features economists are often criticized for ignoring."

That's really been the constant in his career: An ability and eagerness to engage with the real world, both as a student and teacher. And it sets him apart from the vast majority of his academic peers. It's easy to forget, but Krugman was translating economics and enriching our political dialogue for the rest of us long before he landed his perch at the New York Times op-ed page.

Of course, not many people can think and write with Krugman's skill. But perhaps this award will inspire more to try.

In the meantime, professor, congratulations.

--Jonathan Cohn