There’s a fabulous talk by Paul Krugman on MIT World that spells out the Nobel Laureate, New York Times columnist, and — most important — ex-MITer’s argument that today’s policymakers are moving too timidly to solve our world’s massive economic problems. It’s smart, convincing stuff.
But is Krugman accomplishing anything? He has climbed as high as an economist can in terms of public acclaim and having a platform to preach to a general readership, but no one expects his suggestions to become policy. Similarly, Joseph Stiglitz, another Nobel-winning economist who has a media platform, recently told an interviewer: “There is no natural position for me within the usual structure of government.”
And let’s not forget Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and now at MIT Sloan, whose Baseline Scenario blog with James Kwak offers some of the most sober and well-reasoned economic analysis nowadays. Listen to him in this recent NPR interview. His interviewer, the savvy Tom Ashbrook, calls Johnson a “bigfoot economist,” but what does that mean? How much power do bigfoot economists have these days, even during a bona fide economic crisis?
And, while you’re thinking about it, how much power should economists have? What’s the right balance between economic sanity and political reality.