The President and Economic Advice
By Arnold Kling
What is it like trying to advise the President on economics?
Russ Roberts interviews Greg Mankiw, who recently left the Council of Economic Advisers to return to Harvard.
Roberts: What is your perception of the President as a consumer of economic analysis?
Mankiw: I think he’s got a great intuition for economics—he doesn’t think like an economist in the sense of thinking in terms of equations and graphs.
Resisting the appeals of such specific interests well enough to safeguard the welfare of the whole requires more than that the president give small-government speeches. It even requires more than that he sincerely believe that he favors small efficient government. It requires hard work, knowledge, ability to absorb and synthesize facts, analysis, ability to communicate, and willingness to trade off issues when constraints make it appropriate while taking unpopular stands when required.
Jeff argues that relative to mainstream economics, recent Democratic Presidents have proven to be pleasant surprises, and Republican Presidents have been the opposite.
The sense I get from Jeff is that a Republican never knows any more economics than what he knew before taking office. If so, then I would not want to be an adviser. I think of myself primarily as a teacher, and I feel better watching a struggling student learn a little bit than watching a stubborn student walk out of a course having gained no knowledge.