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Noah Smith

Economics Stars Swing Left

Economics, once thought of as a bastion of conservativism, is now dominated by liberals.
This man bears no resemblance to Milton Friedman.

This man bears no resemblance to Milton Friedman.

Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

A lot of people see economics as a “conservative science” that makes up unrealistic theories in order to push a free-market agenda. I don’t know if that was ever true -- maybe in the 1970s? -- but if so, those days are long gone.

At the latest American Economic Association meeting -- the big annual economist convention, which ended Monday -- some people turned out to protest against what they claim is too much mathematical formalism in economics. In an act of supreme irony, their main target was Carmen Reinhart, a Harvard economist whose most famous work was a book about the history of financial crises -- a famous example of modern econ that isn’t mathematical.