Edited by Michael Szenberg and Lall Ramrattan
Chapter 13: Reflections of a Policy Economist
13. Reflections of a policy economist* Edward M. Gramlich The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. (Keynes, 1936) In this time when so many are questioning the value and relevance of doing economics in the policy domain, the above quote from Keynes bears rereading. I first noticed it as a graduate student back in the early 1960s; it resonated (to use a modern term) then, and it still does. I have been practicing in the interesting field that might be called policy economics for three decades now. As is probably true for anybody in the field, there have been high points and low points, cases where my struggle was right and my side lost the battle, cases where my struggle was right and my side may have won the battle, cases where I still believe now what I believed then, and cases where I have changed my mind. But one point on which I have not changed my mind involves the overall value of the effort. Three decades ago I ventured forth in the idealistic hope that some time, in some way,...
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