Monday, June 04, 2007

Thompson's Economist

Robert Novak reports:

Lawrence Lindsey, George W. Bush's issues adviser in the 1999-2000 run-up to his presidential candidacy, is poised to play a similar role in Fred Thompson's imminent campaign. A former Harvard economics professor* and Federal Reserve governor, Lindsey was National Economics Council director in the Bush administration's first two years.

Novak fails to mention the highpoint of Larry's early career: He was once head sectionleader for ec 10.

In fact, Larry was head sectionleader when I first arrived at Harvard as an assistant professor in 1985. One of my first teaching assignments was a section of ec 10. Larry did a great job running things. Marty Feldstein was then course head, as I am today, but the head sectionleader does most of the work. (I trust Harvard deans aren't reading this.) I remember sitting in Larry's office, watching a video of myself teaching--always a painful experience. Larry offered excellent teaching tips.

I also worked with Larry a couple of years before that, in 1982-83, when we were both on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisers during the Reagan administration. Feldstein was chairman. Also on the CEA staff were Larry Summers and Paul Krugman. I knew that Lindsey and I were to the right of Summers and Krugman, but at the time I would have misjudged the distance.


* Some of my Harvard colleagues get annoyed when they see descriptions such as Novak's. Larry was never a full professor at Harvard, which is a tenured position; he was an assistant professor, and perhaps an associate professor, which are untenured positions. As one of my senior colleagues put it to me, "If someone was a vice president of a bank, would it be accurate to report that he was president of the bank?" My own view is that the hierarchical distinctions of academic rank do not loom large in the minds of people outside the academy, so Novak's small degree of sloppiness here is fully excusable.