Monday, June 6, 2011

Peter Diamond Learns a Lesson on Capitol Hill

Nobel laureate Peter Diamond is withdrawing as President Obama's nominee to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, having grown frustrated by the predictable Republican opposition with which virtually every Obama nominee must confront. In today's New York Times (here), Diamond bemoans that a Nobel Prize "wasn't enough" to secure confirmation. But merit and qualifications have never been enough to secure appointment to a high-ranking political position.

Professor Diamond is a phenomenal economist, whom every other economist (regardless of political affiliation) admires. But he seems not to understand that there are only two strictly necessary qualifications to serve as a political official, neither of which has anything to do with merit or credentials: (1) one must be confirmable; and (2) one must be actually confirmed.

No doubt, Senator Richard Shelby (R. Al.) who questioned Professor Diamond's credentials for the position and staunchly opposed his confirmation (because, after all, he was appointed by President Obama), would have voted in his favor had Professor Diamond been nominated by former-President Bush. He even might have supported Professor Diamond despite President Obama's nomination, had Professor Diamond been a high school drop out who happened to be a Republican hack from Alabama, who opposed abortion rights and supported a return to the gold standard.

Professor Diamond has finally learned the hard way the first rule of politics: In politics, all that matters is politics.

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