I guess I must be a Rodney Dangerfield economist. Because I just don’t get no respect — at least not in some quarters.
It all started with an interesting CBC on-line column from the erstwhile Don Newman: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/01/07/f-vp-newman.html
He was taking Stephen Harper to task for proroguing Parliament. Among other aguments, he noted that Canada’s economy had serious issues that the government (and Parliament) should be addressing. He even suggested public hearings where “respected economists” could provide analysis and make policy suggestions.
Who are those “respected economists”? He listed five for starters (in this order): Don Drummond, Dale Orr, Bill Robson, Mike McCracken, and … last but hopefully not least … yours truly.
First off, I’d say the “broad left” did pretty well by Newman’s generous listing. Not often do we constitue 40 percent of this beleaguered profession — or at least the “respected” portion thereof. (I am an unabashed lefty. Mike McCracken, on the other hand, likes to joke that when he started in the profession in the 1960s — working for the CIA believe it or not — he was actually smack in the middle. But since then the whole profession has moved so far to the right, he is now considered downright Bolshie in his inclincations!)
The funniest thing, however, is the hissy fit that Newman’s listing set off amongst our good friends over at Worthwhile Canadian Initiatives: http://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2010/01/canadian-economic-economists-have-to-step-up-to-the-plate.html
Stephen Gordon (whose willingness to engage in fair debate is always commendable) highlighted Newman’s list. Then, without precisely explaining why, he urged other Canadian economists (presumably those left off Newman’s list) to take action: “I beseech you to make your voices heard.”
Several of his subsequent commentators directed their fire at me (although one very kindly damned me with faint praise by acknowledging that even removing me from the list wouldn’t undermine the validity of Stephen’s initial post!). One didn’t know who Mike McCracken was (he’s the founder and CEO of Informetrica, Canada’s leading macro forecasting group). None specifically criticized the other 3 members of Newman’s list. For example I was labeled a “hack” for unions; no-one mentioned who Bill Robson (President of the C.D.Howe Institute, and another person always willing to engage in fair debate) hacks for. Several thought that the main problem with Newman’s list was the absence of academic economists. One acknowledged that academic economists have a very hard time relating their insights to topical issues in understandable language, and that’s why they don’t get on TV much. (I know from reporters that another problem with academic economists is their failure to quickly return phone calls to reporters.)
At any rate thanks, Don, for the mention. And I know for a fact that my mom respects me. I am clearly an economist. So by definition, therefore, I am a respected economist. Q.E.D.