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Mankiw May Return From D.C.

By Javier C. Hernandez, Contributing Writer

Professors say they are unsure whether Freed Professor of Economics N. Gregory Mankiw, currently on leave as a White House adviser, will return to Harvard as President Bush enters his second term.

Mankiw, who currently serves as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), has not yet announced whether he will stay with the administration or return to his professorship at Harvard next year. Harvard regulations limit faculty leaves of absence to two years; Mankiw has been away since May of 2003.

Analysts say Mankiw’s decision could come within a few months, as Bush is expected to begin shuffling his staff as he prepares for his second term in office. The Boston Globe reported on Thursday that Mankiw is “the most likely member of the [economic] team to leave.”

But administrators at Harvard were reluctant to comment on the possibility of his return.

“This is actually a somewhat delicate issue,” said Economics Department Chair Alberto F. Alesina, who declined to comment further on the topic.

“I have no idea whether he will come back or not,” said Maier Professor of Political Economy Benjamin M. Friedman.

Others commended Mankiw’s performance in Washington but noted that his presence at Harvard has been missed.

“I think that Greg is a spectacular economist and spectacular representative of our profession in Washington,” Professor of Economics David I. Laibson said. “In the interest of our department he should come back, but in the interest of the country he should stay in Washington.”

Mankiw could not be reached for comment.

The three-member Council of Economic Advisers gives the president guidance in shaping economic policy. As chairman, Mankiw is chiefly responsible for analyzing economic trends, recommending national economic policies to the president and preparing an annual economic report.

Colleagues said Mankiw’s independence and persistence as CEA chairman has led to effective policy-making.

“He has always stood up for economic principles even if they are unpopular,” Laibson said.

Mankiw came under scrutiny last February for calling outsourcing of American jobs to foreign countries “just a new way to do international trade” and saying it was a “good thing.” Laibson said that Mankiw’s view in the face of mass public opposition was just another sign of his steadfastness.

“I have great respect for what he has done in Washington,” Laibson said. “Greg is a brilliant economist and great teacher.”

Mankiw joined the Harvard faculty in 1985, and since that time his economic textbooks have become standards in the classroom, including his widely popular introductory text, Principles of Economics. He was appointed in February of 2003 by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate in May of that same year.

When Mankiw left his tenured position in 2003, University President Lawrence H. Summers said that “Harvard’s temporary loss as he goes on leave will be the country’s gain.” Summers could not be reached for comment about whether Mankiw’s leave of absence was still temporary.

Before becoming a professor, Mankiw worked as an assistant to Summers, who was a professor in the economics department prior to leaving for his own stint in Washington and then returning to become president of the University.

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