What professors are good for and why

Professors are generally people with the inclination to think long and deeply and carefully about specific problems, not people with the inclination to take a few general principles and wade into a complex mess of problems changing daily. Thus, professors tend to be good at developing fundamental new truths but not at offering practical policy advice. On the bright side, that leaves a lot of running room for policy-oriented economists like me! On the dark side, that means that economists are often under the streetlight rather than closer to where their keys might be. This problem may be especially acute when the problems are new and hard. The profession took a decade, perhaps, before we got our minds around stagflation.

Doug Elmendorf, as quoted in the Freakonomics post on missing macoreconomists.


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