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12 Harvard Economists Sign Letter Opposing Trump

Twelve Harvard professors joined more than 300 other prominent American economists in signing a letter advising U.S. citizens not to vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Economics professor Oliver Hart, who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences earlier this fall, was among the eight Nobel laureates who signed the letter. The Wall Street Journal first reported the letter Tuesday.

“This is a rather uniquely disturbing situation we are in right now, and I think as an economist, and also as a Nobel Prize winner, I signed it because I felt compelled to sign it,” Hart said.

Hart said he believes Trump lacks any coherent, “well thought-out” economic plan for the country, and that the Republican nominee’s checkered business background—specifically, his frequent declarations of bankruptcy–made him unfit to serve as president. A Trump administration, Hart added, would be “dangerous” for the country.

The professors from Harvard who signed the letter spanned the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Economics Department, the Kennedy School, and the Business School.

The letter used strong language to condemn Trump’s rhetoric and positions on topics like immigration and the trade deficit.

“[Trump] misinforms the electorate, degrades trust in public institutions with conspiracy theories, and promotes willful delusion over engagement with reality,” the economists wrote. “If elected, he poses a unique danger to the functioning of democratic and economic institutions, and to the prosperity of the country.”

Many of the Harvard professors who signed the letter framed their decision about strongly opposing Trump rather than supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Kennedy School professor Jeffrey A. Frankel, a signatory of the letter, said a Trump presidency could endanger the economy, referencing remarks the Republican nominee made about refinancing U.S. debt.

“He has used language that, if he were President, would cause the credit markets to doubt the credit-worthiness of the U.S.,” Frankel said. “It’s amazingly reckless to intentionally call into doubt the full faith and credit of the United States.”

Benjamin Golub, an assistant economics professor, said signing the letter was a “very small thing” to do, but seemed an easy decision.

“I think the number of people who would be persuaded by 370 professional economists who otherwise are considering voting for Trump is pretty small,” Golub said. “But I thought that, given this commitment I had made to myself that I would do my very best if there was a risk of Trump getting elected… obviously I should do it.”

The number of signatories, currently around 370, could continue to grow until Election Day on Nov. 8. The letter’s organizers announced Wednesday evening in an email sent from an anonymous address they would keep accepting signatures until the election due to “popular demand.”

After being informed the letter remained open, Economics Department chair David I. Laibson ’88 said he planned to sign, and more generally said he was glad to see economists communicating their insights to the public.

“If they’d asked me [initially], I certainly would have signed, and I imagine thousands of other economists would have as well,” Laibson added.

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at hannah.natanson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

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