Saturday, December 08, 2012

How Economists and Others Get Co-opted

Most important, academics in fields the plutocracy values can multiply their salaries by working as consultants and speakers to super-elite audiences, often in the emerging markets. As Niall Ferguson told me, during a whirlwind weekend when he had given a speech to a private equity conference hosted by a Turkish plutocrat in Istanbul, followed by a speech in Yalta for Ukrainian plutocrat Victor Pinchuk, the roads out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, get jammed on Thursday afternoons as Harvard Business School professors rush to the airport to get to their international speaking gigs. A bestselling New York nonfiction writer likes to tell his more literary— and less well-off— friends that his secret is to write books businesspeople can read on a transatlantic flight.

Even as they cash their speaking fees from the super-elite, these academics shape the way all of us think about the economy. That is mostly through their work in the classroom and at their computers, but also in their role as “independent” experts in legislative debates. A 2010 study by three of my colleagues at Reuters found that of ninety-six testimonies given by eighty-two academics to the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee between late 2008 and early 2010— a crucial period when lawmakers were debating their response to the financial crisis— roughly one third did not reveal their ties to financial institutions.

Freeland, Chrystia (2012-10-11). Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (pp. 268-269). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

If nothing else, it explains how Ferguson went from respected academic to Republican hack.