Friday, August 17, 2012

Economists for Romney

Approximately 400 economists, including 5 Nobel laureates, have endorsed Mitt Romney for President (see here). (At least one name on the list is not an economist but a legal scholar, like me, but of a more libertarian economic sensibility.) What will be the chief political impact of this 400-economist endorsement?

I predict the chief effect will be a competing endorsement of President Obama by an equally large number of economists, including several other Nobel laureates.

To my mind, such endorsements tell us more about the partisan political and ideological commitments of the subscribers than about the economic wisdom of a candidate's (presumed) policies. In my experience, no president supports only economically sensible policies; and it has always seemed to me unwise for academics to even potentially sacrifice their scholarly integrity by actively supporting parties or specific politicians, rather than focusing their analytical skills and judgement on policies and proposals.

If one is asked to serve in an administration, that is another matter - for that period of time, one suspends one's work as an academic and becomes part of government. But to write, as an academic, in support of a party or candidate almost invites questions about whether one's scholarship may be tainted by a political agenda. And, of course, that is as true for Democratic shills, such as Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong (with whom I more often agree on policy issues), as it is for Republican shills such as Greg Mankiw and John Cochrane.

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