Friday, March 25, 2011

Three retirements of note

- Thomas Hoenig, of the FOMC, announced he is retiring by October. This is a very good thing. Hoenig has been a major obstacle to responsible monetary policy. He's been consistently overruled, but I would not be surprised if he has impacted the scale of the interventions that have taken place. He better not decide to change his mind down the road and seek the position again. I hear Congressional standards are very high nowadays. Some Nobel laureates aren't even considered qualified.

- Alan Merton, George Mason University's president, has announced that he will be retiring in 2012. Some of you may not realize, but Merton was a very entrepreneurial president of George Mason. He took it from being a sort of Northern Virginia local college to one that was well known in the state. As I understand it, that entrepreneurial spirit also played a big role in shaping Mason's economics department, which I'm sure all readers are familiar with. The growth strategy for GMU econ has been to fill niches. Their Austrian economists are the most well known, but they also do a lot of work in public choice theory and experimental economics. Some have suggested that more traditional fields have suffered in the department as a result, and of course there are suggestions (not entirely without merit) that the department is quite political and ideological, but the strategy has made them very productive and a force to be reckoned with in certain fields. Two Nobel laureates in an economics department ranked 133rd is not something you see every day. George Mason was not for me. I didn't even apply there, although I applied to most other programs in the area. I think after Merton the question for them is going to be the same question I know they've struggled with before: are they going to leverage their specializations or are they going to become a highly politicized ghetto? I have high hopes for the former outcome but like any entrepreneurial venture there is some risk to this strategy.

- And to round it off, I might as well note that my thesis advisor and mentor for William and Mary's economics department, Clyde Haulman, is retiring after this year. Prof. Haulman is an interesting guy. I first had him in my history of economic thought class, so he was the guy that introduced me to all the older economists I talk about here. If I recall, we ended at Keynes. I worked as a research assistant of his on a study of minority owned firms in Williamsburg, and as I had said he supervised my thesis. He did a lot of work on economic history, particularly in the early republican period in Virginia (he recently published a book on the Panic of 1819 in Virginia). Interestingly enough, he is also the mayor of Williamsburg (he was vice-mayor when I was there). A good guy and a great professor.

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