Earlier this week, the Romney camp released a warm letter of endorsement signed by scores of prominent economists, which began:
We enthusiastically endorse Governor Mitt Romney’s economic plan to create jobs and restore economic growth while returning America to its tradition of economic freedom. The plan is based on proven principles: a more contained and less intrusive federal government, a greater reliance on the private sector, a broad expansion of opportunity without government favors for special interests, and respect for the rule of law including the decision-making authority of states and localities.
Aside from the predictably conservative content, several things struck me about the economists’ letter.
1. There are plenty of solid names there. Dipping into the blogs and writings of liberal economists, such as Paul Krugman, one might get the impression that no intellectually-reputable economist would dare associate themselves with Romney-Ryan. But America’s leading universities are well represented in the letter. I spotted four prominent Harvard economists: Robert Barro, Martin Feldstein, Michael Porter and Greg Mankiw. Only one from Princeton, though (Harvey Rosen). Perhaps the risk of bumping into Krugman in the corridors is just too great?
2. There are even five Nobel laureates, kicking off the letter – as the lead signatories. But I couldn’t help noticing that two of them are associated with ideas that are now somewhat tainted. There is Robert Mundell, widely regarded as the intellectual Godfather of the euro. And there is Myron Scholes, whose work on pricing derivatives led to the famous Black-Scholes equation that eventually helped to drive the LTCM hedge-fund to the wall – giving the global financial system an early presentiment of death.
It all goes to show that economics is a strange discipline. I cannot think of many Nobel winners for medicine, whose prize-winning breakthrough was subsequently accused of killing off their patients.