Wednesday, May 13, 2020

An Ode to Brad W. Setser

Brad W. Setser has become my favorite USA economist. Richard Posner's prose is turgid; Mohamed El-Erian tends to be vague in order to be safe; Joseph Stiglitz is an academic's dream and a practical person's nightmare; Robert J. Shiller is excellent but not inspirational; Paul Krugman mistakes his intelligence in one specific area for intelligence in all areas; Richard Thaler's Nobel Prize speech was so boring, I couldn't finish it; Jeffrey D. Sach's scholarship is deficient; and Michael Lewis is more journalist than economistWhich leaves us with Dr. Setser. 

Setser's tweets are by far the most educational of any account, not just economics. More importantly, his prose is crisp and clear, something one just doesn't see after the letters "P," "h" and "D" are added to an economist's résumé. In his May 12, 2020 newsletter, Setser manages to summarize 25 years of economics in a single paragraph. See below. 

Any other economist would have included double Irish with a Dutch sandwich; inflation; positive demand shock; services vs. goods; and inequality. In doing so, they would have destroyed any real understanding or become clichéd. Meanwhile, everyone understands "positive shock," "exports," and "low tax jurisdictions," but you don't see such clarity in economics unless a true genius is at work. As Charles Baudelaire once said, "Always be a poet, even in prose." Dr. Setser is the economics world's poet. May he enjoy a long, fulfilling career. 

© Matthew Mehdi Rafat (2020) 

Bonus: I'm also a fan of N. Gregory Mankiw. 

Bonus: Like most economists who've worked for the federal government, Setser has blind spots relating to USA foreign policy. He's not perfect

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