I put a call out on Twitter this past week looking for suggestions of people like Paul Krugman, who recently argued in a Bloomberg piece that he and other pro-globalization economists had gotten it wrong in the 1990s and early 2000s, which is to say, public intellectual types who have admitted to interpreting the world — economically, primarily — incorrectly, and acknowledging the errors of their ways. Richard Posner did this to great effect back in 2009, with A Failure of Capitalism, in which he renounced his naive faith in the power of markets to bring about socially ideal outcomes. Ideally, I was hoping for a treasure trove of wonky types like Krugman who understood the economic models underpinning so many anti-government, low-tax, turbo-charged financial market wishful thinking, yet also were likely to be read by run-of-mill liberals like my parents, who are more likely to learn about these things by flipping to the Op-Eds in the New York Times than delve into minutiae on left policy twitter. People like Larry Summers and Olivier Blanchard — policy types who have worked with large International Financial Institutions like the World Bank — were in close second, as architects of policies based on bad (I would argue) priors, who have since recanted, of late, on the benefits of austerity and so forth.
Some good suggestions I received included:
— Dani Rodrik’s ‘The Sorry State of Macro‘ blog post in 2009
— Obamanauts — including Summers, I think — who have argued that they did not do enough during the Obama Administration, but not for lack of trying. How convincing they are in making this claim is one thing; it’s hard to prove a counterfactual that Summers himself wanted a larger stimulus than he felt entitled to ask for (he argued a version of this in response to a question from Pedro D’Acosta at the ASSAs back in 2013), and seems contraindicated by reflections by Democratic political aides. What’s also lame is that many arguments here blame Republicans; yes, the Republicans are intransigently opportunistic, but Obama still formed a bipartisan deficit reducing commission. But in these numbers, Larry Summers and Christina Romer at least have argued that they should have spent more, and Summers has argued that post-Keynesian economists (read, not mainstream) have more to contribute in explaining how economies work, and what should be done about them.
— Michael Jensen (proponent of shareholder capitalism indirectly cited in Wall Street by Gordon Gekko), who now argues that CEOs can go too far in that department, and the Business Roundtable, who released a statement in August that businesses had focused too heavily on shareholder primacy, to the detriment of business and the economy at large.
— and Paul Krugman, bringing me full circle.
I think the more interesting point made by the small number of responses was perhaps evidence of absence: not many people will go on the record to say that they were wrong, unless they can throw the opposite political party under the bus. But I’m very happy to be proven wrong! If you have suggestions of other economists to look into — mainstream economists drawing on the reserve army theory, for example — I’d love to know.