On Monday, November 22 the Barcelona GSE celebrated the inauguration of the 2010-11 academic year in a ceremony featuring a lecture by Prof. Alan Krueger (Princeton University). Also participating in the event were Catalan Minister of Economy and Finance, Prof. Antoni Castells; the Secretary for Economy of the Spanish Government, Prof. José M. Campa; and the Vice President of the European Commission and Honorary President of the Barcelona GSE, Mr. Joaquín Almunia.
Additional remarks were made by Mr. Ricard Fornesa, Honorary President of "la Caixa"; Prof. Louise McNally, Vicerector of Research at Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Prof. Carles Jaime, Vicerector of Strategic Projects and Planning at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; and Prof. Andreu Mas-Colell, Chairman of the Barcelona GSE.
Lessons from Washington
Prof. Krueger's lecture, "Economic Policy Making: Lessons from Recent U.S. Experience," outlined six lessons for economic policymaking that he took from his experiences as Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy and Chief Economist at the United States Treasury Department. (Prof. Krueger left this role in early November 2010.)
The six lessons in brief:
- Policy makers need to draw from all branches of economics in order to make their decisions.
- The level of detail that policy makers go into is well beyond what academic economists are familiar with, and this disconnect often raises problems.
- Much of economic policy is tax policy.
- In general, there is too much attention on new legislation and not enough on getting older programs to work well.
- The US legislative system does best during a crisis, when policymakers are forced to make tough decisions.
- There is no natural constituency for good economic policy.
Barcelona GSE Chairman Prof. Andreu Mas-Colell and Prof. Alan Krueger
Encouragement for economic policy advisors of the future
When addressing the Barcelona GSE master program students in the audience, Prof. Krueger referenced his own graduate training in economics as the foundation for his ability to both conduct research and give advice to policymakers.
"To develop a constituency for good policy requires an educated electorate and well-trained economists to get the message out," Prof. Krueger said to the students. "That is why I am pleased to speak with you today. Your studies and research will help prepare you to contribute to better economic policies, which are very unlikely to be put in place without the active involvement of economists."
Lessons from Europe
In his remarks, the Secretary for Economy of the Spanish Government, Prof. José M. Campa, also underscored the importance of preparation. He observed that policymakers must be ready to identify and take advantage of timely windows of opportunity, both for the implementation of new policies and the adjustment of existing policies. Prof. Campa recognized that training in economic analysis is essential for identifying these key moments.
Vice President of the European Commission and Honorary President of the Barcelona GSE, Mr. Joaquín Almunia, closed his remarks with a message directed at this year's students, whom he addressed as future economic policymakers. "We need your effort. We need your imagination," he told them, in order to tackle the challenges facing Europe and the world.
About Prof. Alan Krueger
Alan Krueger is Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). On March 7, 2009, he was nominated by Barack Obama to be United States Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for economic policy (a position he held until early November 2010). He is among the 50 highest ranked economists in the world according to IDEAS/RePEc.
From 1994-95 Prof. Krueger served as Chief Economist at the United States Department of Labor. He is known for developing and applying the method of natural experiments to study the effect of education on earnings, the minimum wage on employment, and other issues. His recent book, What Makes a Terrorist: Economics and the Roots of Terrorism, analyzed the causes of terrorism from an economic perspective.
From left: Prof. Krueger; Caixa Forum; the event panel; and Secretary of Economy of the Spanish Government Prof. José Manuel Campa, Vice President of the European Commission Mr. Joaquín Almunia, and Catalan Minister of Economy and Finance Prof. Antoni Castells