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Economic Leadership

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Feb 21, 2013    •    639 Views

President Obama’s State of the Union address was primarily economic. The euro zone is dealing with an economic crisis. Developing nations are concerned with economic growth.

So, are economists in charge?

An academic study of 1200 policy makers in EU and OECD countries provides some answers. Looking at heads of government, finance ministers and chief central bankers during the past 40 years, researchers concluded the following:

  • During a financial crisis, it is more likely that a political leader will have an economic background.
  • Euro zone prime ministers tend not to have economic training.
  • In left of center governments, after a stock market crash, more government leaders have economic credentials.
  • When a government has been around awhile, its finance ministers tend to have less economic expertise while its central bankers have more.


Economic Training of Polcy Makers Economic backgrounds of policymakers

We should conclude by asking if economic expertise leads to better policies. The authors say, not necessarily.

And finally, Friedrich von Hayek would remind us that, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

Sources and Resources: A readable analysis of our leaders’ backgrounds, “The Technical Competence of Economic Policy Makers in Developed Democracies” was an interesting paper and the source of the above tables and information. If you prefer a shorter discussion, one possibility is a Washington Post summary or a brief version from its authors at Vox. Also, here is the Nobel Prize talk about Friedrich von Hayek.

Note: The entry was minimally edited after it appeared.

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