THE BLOG

Tenured Economists For a Free Market President

10/02/2012 05:01 pm ET | Updated Dec 02, 2012
  • Pat Choate Economist, author and public policy commentator

Governor Mitt Romney's economic plan has gained the enthusiastic public endorsement of more than 600 professional economists, including six Nobel laureates.

These economists particularly like that Governor Romney's plan would (1) reduce marginal tax rates (2) control (reduce) the growth of government spending to 20 percent of the GDP (3) reduce government regulation (4) restructure Social Security and Medicare (5) use market forces instead of federal bureaucracy to reduce the costs and improve the quality of health care and (6) promote energy policies that increase domestic production.

In sum, these economists endorse a return to the economic policies employed by the administration of George W. Bush -- a lower tax rate for the rich, privatizing the social safety network, and limited federal regulation of the financial and energy sectors.

This public support of Governor Romney's candidacy, however, is diminished by the fact that most of these economists are urging voters to do as they say instead of doing as most of them have structured their own lives. By my count, some 90 plus percent of these economists work as academics, many in public universities, where many of them have lifetime job tenure and well paying jobs from which it is almost impossible to be fired. They have institution-provided health care and generous pensions. At most universities, they have light workloads and many opportunities to moonlight as consultants.

Should not free market economists who urge people to live and die by market forces also subject themselves to those same forces?

Their endorsement would have been so more significant had each signer simultaneously announced that they were surrendering their academic job tenure and subjecting themselves to the market forces that they so admire and so ardently want the federal government to impose on the rest of America's workers.

If younger or poorer economists with comparable skills were willing to teach for less pay and fewer benefits, then so be it. If academic administrators could find equally qualified foreign economists willing to work for less, then they should be in-sourced as replacements. If 401(k)s rather than defined benefit pensions are good enough for the general work force, why not for academic economists? This would be the market at work in academe. And where better to begin such a stimulating process in academe than in free market economics departments?

Fortunately, the election is still weeks away. These economists still have time to make their private lives congruent with their public endorsement of Governor Romney and share fully in the exciting economy that they apparently believe that he would create as president.