As my better half is preparing to leave the Obama administration for academic life, we’re packing up our DC apartment and, as typically happens while packing boxes, feeling a bit reflective. So I thought I would share what has made our time in DC so special.
For me, the great joy of being here has been spending time at The Brookings Institution. It’s an extraordinary place, and I’m convinced that I’ll look back on my time here as pivotal in shaping my evolution as an economist.
The rhythm of life for Brookings economists is dictated by the lunch table. This isn’t the usual lunchroom gossip, but rather an ongoing inquiry into the policy debates du jour, with a relentless focus on economics. It’s an intense ordeal, and facts are the only currency accepted. Scholars who are heading up to the Hill, briefing journalists or visiting the White House, will test drive their insights over salads and sandwiches. Survive lunch, and the rest of your day will be easy. Those Formica tables have heard a lot of great ideas improved, and bad ones decimated.
The biggest difference between Brookings and my usual academic gig is the degree of engagement with real public policy questions. And so this year has served as a wonderful education on the messy reality of U.S. economic policymaking.
We’ll be spending a couple of days this week in Washington, D.C. It’ll be my kids’ first trip. Am looking for non-obvious things to do and good things to eat as well. Best suggestion wins a piece of Freakonomics swag!