Friday, April 20, 2018

Should (government) economists be licensed? (Replies from a panel of academic economists)

The question below, on Occupational Licensing for Economists, is the latest question answered by the distinguished panel of (academic) economists who make up Chicago Booth's IGM Forum.  (IGM = Initiative on Global Markets.)

It took me a moment to parse the question, i.e. to figure out that "disagree" means that requiring a Ph.D. would be a good thing. (A number of those who did disagree nevertheless noted that the word "requiring" was perhaps stronger than they would like.)

For no particular reason, I'm reminded of the old Soviet joke about the party chairman reviewing the Victory Day Parade of troops marching and flying and riding before him in the Kremlin. At the end of the parade comes a jeep full of men in suits, and he inquires of the Field Marshall next to him on the grandstand: "Comrade Field Marshall, who are those people, and why are they in the parade?" To which the Field Marshall replies: Comrade Secretary, those are the economists. You have no idea the damage they can do."

I say it's a Soviet joke, but of course I heard in English, as a child in New York. So, during a visit to Moscow, I took the opportunity of saying to one of my local colleagues "I know a joke that I was told was an old Soviet joke." He listened to me tell it, and before I could identify the men in suits, he jumped in with the equivalent punchline he knew "they are Gosplan!"    So it turns out to be an old Soviet joke in Moscow as well as in NY.

That said, and to the point of the IGM question above, here in the U.S. I find myself missing the government economists of yore...

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