Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Should Some Academic Economists Run for President in 2008?

Have you noticed that there are some pretty serious barriers to entry if you seek to enter the market for being an elected politician in this country? It is mildly exciting to have new faces such as Hilary and Obama enter the race but in a nation of 300 million people are they and McCain, Rudy, Kerry, Gore etc really our best and brightest? Maybe.

Most economists are pro-competition but we've seen the downside of political competition when the democrats would have 15 guys standing their at their debates and Al Sharpton would "win" the debate and dominate the stage. I wonder if the College Football BCS system should be used rather than these goofy primaries. Has a good game theorist explained why Iowa's choices in 2007 help trigger a cascade such that a candidate has Big Momentum heading into "Super Tuesday" and this helps get the U.S an able, intelligent leader during these troubled times?

What are alternative systems for electing a President? Would "better" men and women serve if the election process were different? So my question is about selection. Would the guys who run Google be better than Obama? Would Jim Heckman be a better president than Hilary? Economics claims that markets lead to efficient outcomes but it appears that in political markets that there are fundamental misallocations of resources --- the wrong people are sitting in some important jobs.

Thinking quickly, what serious economists would make good Presidents?
Derek Neal could earn some votes in a variety of parts of the country. His ticket could be balanced with Casey Mulligan as his running mate.

I would vote for my colleague Gib Metcalf. He makes a lot of sense and certainly looks and sounds like a respectable young man.

Jeff Sachs could be the new Bobby Kennedy --- he would certainly earn some votes.

It is true that a number of us are bald and untelegenic. But there are compensating differentials. Maybe we need the radio to make a comeback as a communication mechanism?

On a slightly more serious note, what will Bill Clinton do all day if his wife is President?

The power of social networks seems to be growing over time. Can this claim be tested? If Hilary Clinton hadn't been first lady, would anyone be talking about her as President? Is marrying the right connected person the key to a successful career? In my case that has been true, but I'm not running for President!

This issue is arising again and again for example with Ivy League schools wondering whether "legacy" admits should remain. Is "social capital" as valuable as human capital and health capital?

Such social networks represent a barrier to entry for people outside of the loop and make it harder for some talented "nobody" to crack in and seize power in connected Washington. Anomie has its advantages.