Friday, September 26, 2008

Mankiw comes out in support of plan; some other economists remain skeptical

Others, as quoted by Bloomberg:
``It doesn't seem to me that a lot decisions that we're going to have to live with for a long time have to be made by Friday,'' said Robert Lucas, a University of Chicago economist and 1995 Nobel Prize winner who signed the [open]letter [to Congress]. ``The situation may get urgent, but it's not urgent right now. Right now it's a financial sector problem.''
The economists who signed the letter represent various disciplines, including macroeconomics, microeconomics, behavioral and information economics, and game theory. They also span the political spectrum, from liberal to conservative to libertarian.
David I. Levine, a professor of economics at University of California-Berkeley, says the current plan being discussed has the wrong structure.

``The structure is designed for the Treasury to be the first line of defense,'' said Levine, who studies organizations and incentives. ``A whole lot of people made money supposedly by putting their capital at risk, and those are supposed to be the first line of defense, that's how capitalism works.''
``I suspect that part of what we're seeing in the freezing up of lending markets is strategic behavior on the part of big financial players who stand to benefit from the bailout,'' said David K. Levine, an economist at Washington University in St. Louis, who studies liquidity constraints and game theory.
On the one hand, I share many of the concerns of the letter signers and other critics of the Treasury plan.

On the other hand, I know Ben Bernanke well. Ben is at least as smart as any of the economists who signed that letter or are complaining on their blogs or editorial pages about the proposed policy. Moreover, Ben is far better informed than the critics. The Fed staff includes some of the best policy economists around. In his capacity as Fed chair, Ben understands the situation, as well as the pros, cons, and feasibility of the alternative policy options, better than any professor sitting alone in his office possibly could.

If I were a member of Congress, I would sit down with Ben, privately, to get his candid view. If he thinks this is the right thing to do, I would put my qualms aside and follow his advice.


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