An Economist For President?

Yayi Boni, an economist who used to run the West African Development Bank, has been elected president of the African country of Benin. He is at least the second economist to have recently become president of an African nation, joining Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a U.S. president who was also an economist. Hell, if Harvard can’t stomach an economist as president, it’s hard to imagine the U.S. could. But maybe the time is approaching. So tell me this, dear blog readers: if such a thing were possible, which American economist would you like to see as president?


Closet Libertarian

Becker for President!

I agree that any Economist would have trouble getting elected. Economist tend to talk too straight about issues, i.e., "We should spend less on your pork." Few economist speak in short sentences.

I can't think of many government programs that most economist think need more spending. That makes support difficult.

Becker/Posner '08

MVPY

If you ask around I think that the majority of people would say Paul Krugman. But that wouldn't be my choice.

minderbender

Not strictly an economist, but Robert Rubin would be great. Summers wouldn't be bad.

kramsauer

Presidents are elected because they have one hand (never do they say "on the other hand"). If an economist is elected, he (she) won't have campaigned as one.

will4900

Jed Bartlett in '08

metin

What about Donald Trump? Seriously though, whatever happened to the poster boy of 'trickle-down' theory, or as George Bush called it, 'voodoo economics,' David Stockman.

GMO

Canada's new Prime Minister has a masters degree in economics.

http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/pm.asp

briandrake

Walter Block (http://www.walterblock.com) or Hans-Hermann Hoppe (http://www.hanshoppe.com)

sdstull

Doesn't everything beat a lawyer? Hence, Yes.

indifferentj

Would never happen, at least not a real economist. Economic perspectives are interesting because they're blunt -- ignoring political context for sheer mathematical relationships. Economists have to say things that make people uncomfortable. That would never fly in the US.

That being said, I'd vote for an economist.

dubov

Well, technically Russian president Vladimir Putin has a PhD in economics. Not a very good one though (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2101607,00.html).
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As for the question, I'd say Krugman.

dubov

The link above should be this: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-2101607,00.html

dratskee

India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is an Economics Ph.D from Oxford.

Not sure many economists are cut out to be president. Would people feel comforted to be told they're out of a job because of an exogenous aggregate productivity shock?

SeansW

Yes our prime minister in Canada has a masters degree in economics. The question is would the electorate in the United States vote for an economist as president? I think that in the U.S. the executive branch of government has far more power in the areas of justic and foreign affairs than it does on domestic areas. Hence you see a war that costs billions and billions of dollars and lasts for years when the president can't reform medicare or the tax structure. Domestic issues require more cooperation with the congress and the senate than foreign affairs. It is especially true during a president's second term when they begin to lose political clout with the other branches of government.

I think that an economist would have a better chance of being elected if the president had more power and influence on the domestic agenda. However, in the current system a president is only likely to deal with domestic issues in the first term. The second term is often used for foreign affairs and basic house cleaning issues. If there weren't term limits in place this might change.

We are also talking about a country that prefers to have a charismatic personality in the highest offices. An actor has a better chance of being elected today than an economist. Look at California! Two actors have been governor. One became a two-term president.

Read more...

Aaron_B

Actors have tremendous "attention capital" that lets them "buy" attention from the electorate. The idea of "the attention economy" causes quite a few economists some revulsion, but it's really just information economics.

If you think about it, though, attention is a scarce resource that people allocate on a daily basis.

So maybe an economist who knows their information economics would be a good candidate - how about Varian or some other media economist?

jsc173

You're wrong. Jed Bartlet -- you know the President in the West Wing -- is an economist.

http://b4a.healthyinterest.net/char/jed.html

Yep, two fantasies in one -- a President who's a liberal and an economist. Paul Krugman, eat your heart out.

jhunsaker

Ronald Reagan majored in economics at Eureka. Not sure that makes him an economist but...

http://reagan.eureka.edu/campus/

Aelstro

What about Alan Greenspan? He speeks in short sentences that people try to decode for weeks. He knows policy and is used to refusing bribes or "benefits from special interest groups".

And he's used to the media

He's old, but so was Ronnie Regan.

firepatch36

Walter Williams. I had him for a class, he accepts no nonsense, and is hilarious.

rolandp

Reagan's degree was in economics. Phil Gramm ran in the primaries and got nowhere with the Dicky Flatt Test.

Larry Summers would have to switch to the Republican party to have a chance. But, maybe Bruce Bartlett would have to become a Democrat.