Academics in government
Austan Goolsbee's academic work (pdf) suggests that investment tax credits don't do much for the economy. The White House that Goolsbee will work for is, however, proposing just such a credit, and Goolsbee will probably be defending it at some point. You see this happen a lot in government, and Megan McArdle has the right take on it:
There's going to be some inevitable accusations of hypocrisy here, but I think that in general it's not very helpful to throw the academic work of presidential advisors up against them. It's great for scoring political points, but the fact is that economic advisors cannot run around saying that presidential policies are a bad idea. Presidents are naturally going to do a bunch of things that are economically sub-optimal, politics being what it is. If you pillory good economists for giving cover to those economic policies, the result will be that the president will only get hack advisors who will give him terrible, ideologically-driven advice. This does not sound like a better outcome, unless you are an ideologically-driven hack who doesn't really care whether the president is in touch with reality, as long as he's serving your ends.
I was disappointed when people who should have known better did this sort of thing to Mankiw and Hubbard, and I feel the same way now about Goolsbee and Romer. I would much rather have them in office, making awkward public statements in favor of policies I'm quite sure they don't fully support, and giving the president excellent advice, than to have them in the ivory tower, maintaining their intellectual purity while political hacks drive policy.
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