SYNOPSIS: Krugman explains the world of academics and consulting
Just a further note here. I gather from Joshua Michael Marshall's Talking Points Memo that Andrew Sullivan (whose website is too vile to read) now thinks that I misled my readers by not saying that I was on a paid advisory board. As Marshall points out, it's hard to imagine that anyone really thought that a corporate advisory board carried no honorarium. Only someone completely out of touch with the real world thinks that people donate their time and expertise gratis to highly profitable corporations - which was what everyone at the time thought Enron was.
More broadly, Sullivan (and Virginia Postrel, who I did read) seem to believe that successful academics are poor mousy types who live in ivory towers, who never receive offers to be paid to talk about what they know. That's not the way it is. Academic economists who have established international reputations in policy-relevant fields are constantly called by governments and companies, seeking their services - and yes, offering to pay for them. Think about it: how could it be otherwise?
And many respond to those calls. A few examples I know about: Robert Mundell advised corporate clients and gave speeches to corporate conferences while teaching at Columbia. My mentor Rudi Dornbusch at MIT had a regular speaking schedule for Citibank, consulted with many governments, and ran a for-profit newsletter. Jeff Sachs ran Bolivia and Poland for a few years, while teaching at Harvard. Paul Romer, at Stanford, has done corporate speaking and started a web publishing venture. Ken Rogoff has taken leave from Harvard to be chief economist at the IMF. Joe Stiglitz , now at Columbia, was chief economist at the World Bank, and has become a major public figure since.Stan Fischer took leave from MIT to run the IMF, and eventually resigned his academic post. Larry Summers - gee, whatever happened to him?
By the way, I've deliberately chosen a list of terrific research economists to show that there's no contradiction between a public role and serious work. It's very important that an academic pay his or her dues, do the fundamental work that justifies the rest. But they did - and so did I.
By 1999, 22 years after I got my Ph.D., having published 15 scholarly monographs and around 150 professional papers, I was certainly in the circle of Those Who Get Money Calls (though I didn't get there until around 1995). So the Enron offer didn't come as a surprise, and it certainly didn't corrupt me - as my articles about them surely prove.
So where are we? Ms. Postrel says that I should have known that something was wrong because I was offered far more than someone in my position should expect; in saying this, she only shows that she doesn't know anything either about the modern academic world, or about what corporate consultants are paid. Mr. Sullivan thinks that I misled readers by not reminding them that corporations invariably pay their boards; it would never have occurred to me that people didn't know that. And he claims that I was an Enron crony. Maybe he should look up "crony" in the dictionary. Doesn't being a crony mean that you (a) know people well and (b) do them favors? I didn't, and I didn't.
What's left here is a crazed determination to find something wrong with my behavior when I did exactly what I was supposed to do. Vast right-wing conspiracy, anyone? Or is it just green-eyed envy?