Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Summers

Newsweek (!!!) has a cute little piece on Larry Summers. Here's my favorite, non-policy relevant part:

Summers is generally said to suffer from smartest-kid-in-the-class syndrome. He has heard the criticism so many times he has a slightly wounded, misunderstood air. Unlike some people who pretend to listen, Summers says he actually does listen—but he admits to an unfortunate tendency to look bored or impatient, which he acknowledges can seem rude. Summers can be playful and charmingly irreverent. But he can also just be rude.

Everyone has a Larry story, it seems. Princeton economist Alan Blinder recalls head-on collisions with Summers in the '90s. "As everybody knows, Larry is very smart and he likes to show it," says Blinder, who served on Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers and later as Fed vice chair.

Truth be told, he sounds just like any econ academic I've met worth his/her salt. Whether that's good or not, who knows? Not me, but there you have it, that's how we were re-socialized.

And nope, I do not have a Summers story. Which is for sure not uncorrelated in deep, multi-layered, symbolic ways to why I'm blogging about this little article instead of doing meaningful work on policy issues.

(But I do have an Ed Glaeser story.)

p.s. "cute" and "Summers" in the same sentence? My, oh me, I need to re-re-socialize myself ASAP!

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Monday, February 9, 2009

The dark side of econblogging (one of them)

Clive Crook:

Economics outside the academy has become the continuation of politics by other means. If you wish to know what Mr Krugman thinks on any policy question, do not read his scholarly writings; see which policies are advocated by the progressive wing of the Democratic party... Politics and economics are always difficult to keep apart... Consensus economics does exist. The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve are trying to apply it. The economics professoriate has an obligation to criticise and improve those policies. But if politics is allowed to split the discipline, and communication across that divide continues to break down, the science of economics will forfeit what little respect it still commands.

Experts from whatever discipline may become the worse kind of hacks when it comes to politics. Economists are certainly not above that. What sets economists apart is that, with so much of politics being about economic policy, economics becomes one with politics with an ease that, say, physics or English Lit lack.

If only it were possible to tell when the same people are playing the role of propagandists and when that of thoughtful experts (who may, with all sincerity and after their best efforts at rigorous analysis, still disagree). But it is not and, unfortunately, some call themselves "economists" indiscriminately under both guises.

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