George Akerlof, a Nobel Prize- winning economist and the spouse of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, resigned an unpaid advisory position with a University of Zurich center funded by UBS AG, saying he wants to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.
The year was 1999, the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, and President Bill Clinton’s top economic adviser had a message for economists gathered at Yale University: Tight labor markets are beneficial for blacks, Hispanics and male high-school dropouts.
Ask a Nobel Prize-winning economist what’s the difference between the mayor of Baltimore losing taxpayer money with derivatives sold by Wall Street and millions of Americans defaulting on subprime loans and he’ll say there isn’t any: State and local governments are victims of opaque financing they don’t understand, the same way individuals go broke on borrowing at rates too good to be true.
The most valuable new book I’ve read this year is Justin Yifu Lin’s “The Quest for Prosperity.” George Akerlof, a Nobel laureate in economics and a man not given to reckless overstatement, calls it “a masterpiece.” I’d say that’s right.
The economic power that some in the financial community attain bothers many people deeply. It offends our ideal of a society that aspires to respect, appreciate and support everyone. The pursuit of power that often drives financial capitalism seems contrary to the concept that finance should be about the stewardship of society’s assets.