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Should We Miss Larry Summers?

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Sep 24, 2010    •    222 Views

As you know, Larry Summers, chair of the National Economic Council, former president of Harvard, former Treasury Secretary, former chief economist at the World Bank, and Harvard professor, is leaving the Obama economic team. But what did he bring? You might want to consider a 2009 New Yorker article and The New Republic’s commentary and then decide if you will miss him.

An excellent portrait, The New Yorker article is part bio, part personality, part role for Obama.You leave it thinking that he is smart, he knows what he believes, and he might have moved slightly leftward toward supporting more government when the market is dysfunctional.

By contrast, The New Republic primarily focuses on whether Summers was sufficiently liberal. Their conclusion is maybe more than people realize.

The Economic Lesson

When I asked Dr. Summers the most important idea an economics teacher could share with her students, he said, “The power of the market.” Also, Tom Friedman has this quote from Larry Summers:  “In the history of the world no one has ever washed a rented car.” 

Dating back to 2002, both statements reflect a fundamental faith in demand, supply, and the productive influence of the market’s incentives.

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