Who are these guys?

Greg Hannsgen | July 21, 2010

I seem to remember that there used to be a column in a magazine featuring contradictory newspaper headlines. One headline might say, “Fed Chair Says Interest Rates Likely to Rise,” while another in a different newspaper from the very same day would insist, “Fed Chair Says Interest Rates Likely to Fall.”

Something like this appears to have occurred in blogs and articles that have published lists of prognosticators who predicted the financial crisis, the Great Recession, and/or the housing crisis. In fact, some pairs of these lists have very few names in common. For example, David Warsh’s often-fascinating online column, “Economic Principals” published the following “Pantheon of Prescients” two days ago:

Raghuram Rajan
Kenneth Rogoff
Nouriel Roubini
Robert Shiller
William White

On the other hand, here are the winners of the heterodox Revere Award, “for the economist who first and most cogently warned the world of the coming Global Financial Crisis”:

Dean Baker
Steve Keen
Nouriel Roubini

All of the economists on both lists have had some very interesting things to say about the financial crisis, recession, and/or various other developments since 2007 or so. A major concern of mine with the first list is that, in my view, some on the list have greatly underestimated the role of weak financial regulation as a factor in the crisis. (Another intriguing list was recently removed from the web, hopefully by its author. Appropriately, it included the late Levy Distinguished Scholar Wynne Godley.)

All such lists are of somewhat limited usefulness and importance. But somehow many people (including this blogger) find them interesting, and they continue to appear.

It is remarkable that the two lists above would have only one name in common, though I think no economist would seriously claim that even both of them combined would be all-inclusive. Is this just an indication that there are borders between groups of economists (left versus right, Keynesian versus New Classical, European versus North American, heterodox versus neoclassical, etc.) that are rarely crossed? I have been wondering if anyone will step up to the plate with the most comprehensive list possible, one that might cross more of these and other boundaries. One bit of good news that might emerge from this exercise is that we have quite an impressive “competition” indeed, yielding far more insights than one might have at first anticipated.


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