From Sanders Theatre to the West Wing
Former Harvard professor to enter Bush administration
Lawrence B. Lindsey has gone from grading Ec.10 exams to grading the economy for the leader of the free world.
When President-elect George W. Bush announced his intention to appoint former Harvard assistant professor Lawrence B. Lindsey as assistant to the president for economic policy, it coincided with the former Texas Governor's public declaration that the country should prepare for a potential economic slump.
Once a section leader for Ec. 10, Lindsey served as a member of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1991 to 1997. During that time, he forewarned of the imminent end to the country's economic prosperity. Yet even prior to his days in the White House, Lindsey gained a reputation as a valued adviser.
While at Harvard, Lindsey worked closely with Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein '61. Feldstein, Lindsey's mentor and former adviser to the Reagan administration, praised the career successes of his former colleague.
Lauding Lindsey's work in the College's economics department, Feldstein wrote in an e-mail message, "It was [the] perfect preparation for his current job!"
Still, not all of his former colleagues expected Lindsey would end up in the White House.
"He always had an interest in public policy [but] there are a lot of policy-oriented professors at Harvard," Professor of Economics N. Gregory Mankiw says. "I wouldn't have predicted that he would end up in the position he in today"
Acknowledging his public policy expertise, Mankiw says that it is Lindsey's advising approach that will help him most in his new job.
"He was a very good teacher. Very rarely do people pull you aside and tell you how to teach better," says Mankiw. "It was nice to have Larry pull me aside and give me little pointers here and there."
These teaching skills, says Mankiw, would serve him well as he advises the president.
"What he did with 18 year olds in Ec.10 is not that much different from what he will do with George. W Bush, even though he's older," Mankiw says.
Lindsey's influence over the economic policies of the new administration will be of particular importance, given recent fears surrounding the potential downturn of the economy.
"Larry, to his credit, has been saying for some time that there are some real weaknesses in this economy.... It sure looks that way now," Feldstein told The New York Times earlier this month.
Yet, it is difficult to predict the economic situations that Lindsey will encounter in the upcoming year, says IBM Professor of Business and Government Roger B. Porter.
"There's really no way of knowing," said Porter, who held Lindsey's new position in the Ford, Reagan and Bush administrations. "We can hardly tell what they're going to be three months from now."
In his new position, Lindsey will have to strike a balance between offering personal advice to the president and synthesizing the views of other agencies. The individual best suited for the job is one who "doesn't have his own ax to grind" Porter says. "[You] must remember who the voters elected, and that you serve him."
Porter says that as Bush's chief economic adviser, Lindsey must offer a "heavy dosage of reality" to the president.
"Sometimes there's the temptation to make things sound better then they are," he says. "Nobody likes to deliver bad news."
Above all, Porter offered Lindsey these words of advice for surviving the pressures of his new position:
"Get plenty of rest whenever possible and keep a sense of humor."