Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Greg Mankiw, Jason Furman and economists' politics

Greg explains the bonds that link classical liberal and lefty economists on the occasion of his lefty student, Jason Furman, taking over as chair of the council of economic advisers. The piece is well done though I would have said more about how, at least in DC, economists can easily put aside their usually minor differences about where on the Pareto frontier they would like to end up in favor of the much more challenging task of trying to bring policy within a light-year or two of the Pareto frontier.

His piece also reminded me of a story that my undergraduate mentor Paul Heyne (who seems to be on my mind a lot lately) used to tell about going to interdisciplinary conferences that would include him, as the classical liberal economist, some sort of lefty economist to present a contrasting view, and a bunch of scholars from other disciplines. Invariably, according to Paul, the discussions would evolve into the two economists versus everyone else. How economists think about problems really is much more important than what in most contexts are minor differences about equity and efficiency on the frontier.

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