Saturday, November 15, 2008

Larry Summers for Treasury

I met (as in had a brief conversation with) Larry Summers once. It was in 2000, and the setting was a cocktail party for business people in Madison who had donated money to the Gore campaign.

He was, to say the least, socially awkward: he stood in a corner of the room, by the food, and kept his mouth solidly stuffed with cheese and crackers. This was no politician.

But then he gave a ten minute speech explaining the five great economic accomplishments of the Clinton Administration (rising wages for all, budget surpluses, etc.) and the five things a Gore Administration would do (reduce income inequality, health care for children, etc.) to make things even better. It was a brilliant, inspiring, and visionary ten minute speech. His valedictory speech as Harvard president was equally good.

Lots of people I know do know Summers well. They all say that he sometimes forgets to think before he lets words come out of his mouth. They also all say that when he doesn't forget to think, the words that come out of his mouth are smarter than anyone else's. When it comes to deciding who should be running Treasury right now, that should be the only criterion that matters.


Anonymous said...

No disagreement here, though I listened to a brilliant-- if not edgy-- talk by Joseph Stiglitz, who properly lambasted the economics profession for missing so completely the RE bubble and financial leverage time bombs. He mentioned how his students over the years have heard his missive on diversification but conveniently forgot about his equal time lecturing on correlation and information asymmetry as they peddled all those derivatives and asset backed securities at their high paying WallStreet jobs. His humility, disgust and real brains were a powerful cocktail. And perhaps traits appropriate for our times...

Uncle Billy, Hobnobber said...

Agreed, Stiglitz never fails to impress me.

And then there's the guy who I'm secretly rooting for who probably would never take the job -- David Cutler.

Thomas Galvin said...