Economists in Charge


We’ve noted in the past that various countries routinely elect economists to be president or prime minister — a trend that has decidedly escaped the U.S.

We also released a podcast a while back called “What Would the World Look Like if Economists Were in Charge?” — which, despite the title, was about the U.S. more than “the world.” (Yes, I am as synecdochically myopic — or is that myopically synecdochal? — as any other American.)

Now, a British reader named Peter Bennett writes in with this challenge:

Looking forward to hearing your take on these new technocratic economists in charge in Italy and Greece.

Just how bad would things have to get in the U.S. before they’d call in the economists?

 We will try to scare up a worthy contributor to answer both those questions in the near future. 

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  1. Pshrink says:

    Alas, we have seen what happened in a country run by a psychiatrist.

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  2. Geoff says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Andrew says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • twobeef says:

        Why, a Keynesian might have completely ignore the substance of their opponents’ arguments and quoted them out of context in order to make them look like warmongerers!

        …Or, perhaps, they would have mentioned that government spending on implements of war creates jobs and adds to GDP just like other government spending, but we would be much better off spending on infrastructure and related items which would have a positive impact on the nation’s overall stature. No one ever seems to remember the parts of Keynes speech’s, though, where he wonders why we can’t have any kind of stimulative spending in government that doesn’t involve blowing things up or digging holes in the ground.

        Well, how bad could it be. I mean, the worst they could possibly do is put out a paper that says that destroying the current spending surpluses with additional tax cuts would be so stimulative on the economy that it would cause the entire deficit to be paid off eventually. Or talk about how new tax cuts will create so many jobs that we’ll eventually be down to 2.8 unemployment. But that’s crazy talk – no one who calls themselves an economist would go into something like that.

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  3. Gabriel says:

    You just have to look at Chile in the 80s to know how a country ruled by economist works. We had a dictatorship that changed public policies based on thoughts of PhD economists coming from Chicago. The result was an improvement in several indicators, but without a real representation of citizens in politics. Now we have a crisis on education and one of the most unequal societies in the world. That’s what happens when you see everything as a market.

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  4. Hasdrubal says:

    Have there been any empirical studies of whether or not countries perform better (economically, socially, etc) when an economist is head of government?

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  5. Zero says:

    Indian economy’s growth rate has reduced ever since an economist – Manmohan Singh took over in 2004. Economies can never be run by economists.

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    • Erud1t3 says:

      That is patently false, India’s economic growth was much faster during UPA-I regime than during the NDA regime.

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      • Zero says:

        Really Erudit3? Why do you talk of only UPA-1; we’re in UPA-2 now. The official real GDP growth rate is ~7% and of course inflation is fudged at ~10% whereas it is closer to 20%.

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  6. Ricardo says:

    Let’s remember that economists were not elected in Greece or Italy (to any public position, ever) – they were appointed by resigning prime ministers. As JJ McCullough from Filibuster Comics puts it, it’s as if Obama were to resign and state that Alan Greenspan would now be in charge of the country.

    I doubt more economists RUN in elections in Italy or Greece, or that the American public would be ok with a non-elected leader being appointed by a resigning President outside the line of succession.

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  7. Nanno says:

    Maybe they’d call in the E-cavalry when their debt per capita is higher than in Greece.

    Oh sh*t, I forgot, you already have. (That is if the Daily Show used hard data, for me it’s too close to call) They’re both around $45,000 per capita.

    “The estimated population of the United States is 311,681,741 so each citizen’s share of this debt is $48,074.04.”

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  8. bern says:

    Actually, we did that once, at least. George Bush senior had an economics degree, and he is famous for abandoning his “read my lips” no new taxes pledge. It was his tax and budget agreement with Congress that set the stage for the economic growth of the 90’s and the possibility of retiring the federal debt- all of which was undone by George Bush Junior.

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