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White House Eyes Mankiw

Economist’s peers debate whether economist would fit in the Bush Administration

By Susanne C. Chock, Crimson Staff Writer

Professor of Economics N. Gregory Mankiw may be the White House’s next chief economic advisor—but the nation’s leading economic thinkers disagree on whether the famous Harvard scholar would fit in with the Bush administration.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Mankiw is a leading candidate to succeed R. Glenn Hubbard, the current chair of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, who is reportedly planning to step down in the spring and return to Columbia University

Hubbard has not directly confirmed the report, but if true he would be the third top member of Bush’s original economics team to leave, after Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and Director of the President’s National Economic Council Lawrence Lindsey were forced to resign in early December.

Mankiw’s colleagues agree that he is qualified to succeed Hubbard, but some question whether he is well-suited to work in the Bush administration.

Robert Z. Lawrence, Williams Professor of International Trade and Investment at the Kennedy School of Government, said Mankiw—who has authored two widely successful textbooks and is a regular columnist for Fortune—is distinguished for his ability to express himself clearly.

“We, as economists, have trouble communicating quite often with other members of the human race,” he said. “The talents of an economist in government lie in being able to communicate.”

Lawrence also described Mankiw as a conservative, and said he is likely to continue the basic thrust of Bush’s economic program.

But Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who served on the staff of the Council of Economic Advisors with Mankiw in the early 1980s, disagreed.

Krugman said that in considering Mankiw the Bush administration is simply looking for someone famous to add luster to the executive branch.

“I think he’s a fine person, but I would be really surprised if the administration took his advice on any of the big questions,” Krugman said. “He’s too good for this White House.”

Krugman also said Mankiw’s brand of economics is not conservative enough for the Bush administration.

“His writing is not nearly as right wing as the administration’s actual policies,” he said, “which will cause some embarrassment in the event that he is appointed.”

If Mankiw is appointed, he will be the first White House chief economist from Harvard since Baker Professor of Economics Martin S. Feldstein ’61, who served under President Ronald Reagan.

—Staff writer Susanne C. Chock can be reached at chock@fas.harvard.edu.

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