Now she tells us. 

Martha Olney, an emeritus economics professor from UC Berkeley, tweeted that the American Economics Association lost about $900,000 on its recent meeting in New Orleans. Phil Magness, replying to her, claimed that it was due to the AEA’s “absurd pandering to Covidian zealots.”

I’m sure that was a factor; I don’t know how important a factor. But Olney’s response was shocking.

She wrote:

Huh? I’m guessing that means you’re not here. Like all mask mandates, it’s more a suggestion than anything else. As is true everywhere. Take care of others, or do your own thing. Your choice.

Wow! I knew of a few people, Phil being one, who said that they wouldn’t go to the AEA meetings because of the mask mandate. But now she says that a mandate doesn’t mean you have to; no, it means that you may if you want to.

Phil replied by pointing to the actual AEA statement that preceded the meeting. There was no hint that it was a “suggestion.” Here’s the statement:


All registrants will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to have received at least one booster to attend the meeting. Those who are unable to be vaccinated or boosted for health or religious reasons should contact for information about an exemption. High-quality masks (i.e., KN-95 or better) will be required in all indoor conference spaces. These requirements are planned for the well-being of all participants. Participants are also encouraged to test for COVID-19 before traveling to the meeting.

Notice the distinction between the rules about vaccinations and masks and the suggestion about being tested. The former are requirements, aka mandates. The latter is a suggestion. I doubt that more than 20 percent of potential attendees assumed that when the AEA said there was a masking requirement, it didn’t really mean it.

But Professor Olney doesn’t give up. She responds:

I suppose things are different depending on where we live but even in highly mask wearing SF Bay Area, a “mandate” is not enforced. That was my assumption re ASSA and also is what I’ve observed here.

I doubt that more than 20% of potential attendees, when they read the rules, assumed that the AEA didn’t really mean it.