Who needs a Nobel Laureate when we have Google?
Nobel Prize winner Peter Diamond was turned down from the board of the Federal Reserve. Are his philosophical and analytical perspective undervalued?
I was debating on what to write about tonight–either the update on Nobel Prize winner Peter Diamond’s failed nomination to the Federal Reserve Board (with his very public withdrawal as shared via the New York Times), or Minnesota governor (and Republican presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty’s speech on his “economic plan” (text of speech here via the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog). I decided I could do both in one post, because both Peter Diamond (in his NYTimes column) and Tim Pawlenty (in his economic policy speech) talk about how they would approach improving the role and quality of government in our lives.Skip to next paragraph
'EconomistMom' (Diane Lim Rogers) is Chief Economist of the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan, non-profit organization which advocates for fiscal responsibility, and the mom of four (amazing) kids to whom she dedicates her work. She’s been blogging since Mother’s Day 2008.
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By the way, the Diamond nomination appeared doomed back in October of last year when Diamond had just won the Nobel Prize–as I wrote about at the time, here. The updated story on the “why” (from Diamond’s new column) isn’t really any different from the story last October.
As Diamond explains:
Last October, I won the Nobel Prize in economics for my work on unemployment and the labor market. But I am unqualified to serve on the board of the Federal Reserve — at least according to the Republican senators who have blocked my nomination. How can this be?
The easy answer is to point to shortcomings in our confirmation process and to partisan polarization in Washington. The more troubling answer, though, points to a fundamental misunderstanding: a failure to recognize that analysis of unemployment is crucial to conducting monetary policy…
[U]nderstanding the labor market — and the process by which workers and jobs come together and separate — is critical to devising an effective monetary policy. The financial crisis has led to continuing high unemployment. The Fed has to properly assess the nature of that unemployment to be able to lower it as much as possible while avoiding inflation. If much of the unemployment is related to the business cycle — caused by a lack of adequate demand — the Fed can act to reduce it without touching off inflation. If instead the unemployment is primarily structural — caused by mismatches between the skills that companies need and the skills that workers have — aggressive Fed action to reduce it could be misguided.
In my Nobel acceptance speech in December, I discussed in detail the patterns of hiring in the American economy, and concluded that structural unemployment and issues of mismatch were not important in the slow recovery we have been experiencing, and thus not a reason to stop an accommodative monetary policy — a policy of keeping short-term interest rates exceptionally low and buying Treasury securities to keep long-term rates down. Analysis of the labor market is in fact central to monetary policy.
And what could a Nobel laureate economist bring to the question: what makes for better government? Towards the end of his column, Diamond suggests this:
To the public, the Washington debate is often about more versus less — in both spending and regulation. There is too little public awareness of the real consequences of some of these decisions. In reality, we need more spending on some programs and less spending on others, and we need more good regulations and fewer bad ones.