Tag Archives: Political Animals

Speaking Truth to Power Rarely Works

Telling the truth to one’s superiors is hard. Especially when the stakes are high. Christina Romer comes to mind. Brilliant economist. She’s done excellent work on the role of monetary policy during the Great Depression.

A partisan Democrat, she was summoned to Washington soon after President Obama’s election to advise him. All of a sudden she endorsed the Bush-Obama views on stimulus. This is a 180 degree turn from her previous views. Romer’s own academic research shows that fiscal stimulus’ effects are too small to do measurable good.

Romer the economist believes that most business cycles have monetary causes. Not fiscal. Monetary. Romer the economist had been very consistent in expressing that view. But that view changed as soon as she arrived in Washington and Romer the economist transformed into Romer the political advisor. Suspicious.

This is not a new phenomenon. Politicians from both parties have been using economists for as long as economists have let themselves be so used. Politicians love the air of legitimacy that pointy-headed academics can give to their proposals. And economists love the sudden rush of attention and name recognition — and the professional prestige that will long outlast the current administration. They are happy to sell out. Or is it buying in?

That thought was sparked by reading about F.A. Hayek mourning the death of some of his colleagues’ integrity back during the Reagan years:

“You can either be an economist or a policy advisor.

I have seen in some of my closest friends… how a few years in government corrupted them intellectually and made them unable to think straight.”

Cato Policy Report, Vol. 5, No. 2, February 1983.

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Regulation of the Day 88: College Football’s Playoff System

College football is bringing big bucks to K Street as lawmakers take aim at dismantling the Bowl Championship Series,” says a recent story in Politico.

A six-figure sum is being spent lobbying what really shouldn’t be a government issue. Millions more are being spent on other issues affecting college sports.

There’s even a PlayOff PAC that gives money to politicians who take an active stance on college football playoff reform.

True, the BCS playoff system could definitely use an overhaul. But that’s a job for the NCAA. Not Congress.

On the other hand, legislators do considerably less harm when they spend their time on college football instead of, say, health care or fiscal stimulus.

A Riddle

Rep. Joe Wilson is under fire for yelling “you lie!” at President Obama during his health care speech last night.

Now, all politicians lie. It is their nature. So Rep. Wilson’s assertion, tactless as it was, is technically correct.

But Rep. Wilson is a politician too, and therefore a teller of lies. So, when calling another man a liar, could he have been lying himself?

The mind boggles.