Friday, August 06, 2010

Interesting analogy

Greg Mankiw comments on Christina Romer's resignation from her post as Chair of the Council of Economics Advisors. Having been in her position, he speculates on what is going through her head as she transitions back to her faculty position. All of this reminds me of one of my favorite passages from Paul Seabright's Company of Strangers. The author refers to "politicians", but the discussion may as well refer to any member of the crew. It goes like this:

Politicians are in charge of the modern economy in much the same way as a sailor is in charge of a small boat in a storm. The consequences of their losing control completely may be catastrophic (as civil war and hyperinflation in parts of the former Soviet empire have recently reminded us), but even while they keep afloat, their influence over the course of events is tiny in comparison with that of the storm around them. We who are their passengers may focus our hopes and fears upon them, and express profound gratitude toward them if we reach harbor safely, but that is chiefly because it seems pointless to thank the storm. (p. 25)