Larry Summers For Chairman

I have always liked Larry Summers, for various reasons: his incomparable knowledge of economics; his massive brain; his constitutional inability to mouth conventional nonsense; his amazing intellectual courage; and the identities of his enemies. I can’t think of anything that he has said or done that I have disagreed with.

He was literally bred for the job of Chairman of the Federal Reserve: when you mate two very smart professors of economics, you get one very smart professor of economics. He has a solid-gold resume: MIT at 16; Harvard PhD; youngest tenured Harvard professor in history; president of the World Bank; deputy treasury secretary under Bob Rubin; treasury secretary under Clinton; president of Harvard; director of the National Economic Council under Obama. Unqualified?

Politically, Summers is a Democrat, but his economics are decidedly and outspokenly free-market. He gives the markets and businesses confidence when he serves under Democratic presidents. During the Clinton years, Summers and Rubin balanced the federal budget while growing the economy for eight years. Under their stewardship the economy grew by one-third and the Dow rose from 3000 to 11000. Summers has successfully dealt with a number of major financial crises. He would be a masterful appointment that would help to demonstrate the president’s seriousness when it comes to the economy and financial stability.

Plus there is the whole matter of his sheer entertainment value. Larry Summers is no consensus-seeking middle-of-the-roader; he loves a good argument. I would enjoy seeing him as Chairman, telling colleagues, congressmen and the media where to get off, tartly and succinctly.

I like Janet Yellen, and I agree with her monetary views. But I have no reason to believe that she is a forceful or dominant personality. She strikes me as a nice person who would seek comity and consensus, which is the very last thing the FOMC needs right now. Another round of Kumbaya at the FOMC and we’ll have no growth at all. We need a Chairman with strong opinions who will kick ass and take names. That’s Summers, famously unfamous for his niceness or collegiality.

The president certainly knows and trusts Summers, and Jack Lew has worked with him in two administrations. They know what they will get with him: brilliance and controversy. Will the Legion of Political Correctness get a veto over Summers’ appointment? Let’s hope that his sheer ability counts more than our nation's obeisance to the absurd notion that all humans have exactly equal aptitudes and IQs.

The World’s Opinion Page

Help support Project Syndicate’s mission.

  1. China corruption Isaac Lawrence/Getty Images

    The Next Battle in China’s War on Corruption

    • Chinese President Xi Jinping knows well the threat that corruption poses to the authority of the Communist Party of China and the state it controls. 
    • But moving beyond Xi's anti-corruption purge to build robust and lasting anti-graft institutions will not be easy, owing to enduring opportunities for bureaucratic capture.
  2. Italy unemployed demonstration SalvatoreEsposito/Barcroftimages / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

    Putting Europe’s Long-Term Unemployed Back to Work

    Across the European Union, millions of people who are willing and able to work have been unemployed for a year or longer, at great cost to social cohesion and political stability. If the EU is serious about stopping the rise of populism, it will need to do more to ensure that labor markets are working for everyone.

  3. Latin America market Federico Parra/Getty Images

    A Belt and Road for the Americas?

    In a time of global uncertainty, a vision of “made in the Americas” prosperity provides a unifying agenda for the continent. If implemented, the US could reassert its historical leadership among a group of countries that share its fundamental values, as well as an interest in inclusive economic growth and rising living standards.

  4. Startup office Mladlen Antonov/Getty Images

    How Best to Promote Research and Development

    Clearly, there is something appealing about a start-up-based innovation strategy: it feels democratic, accessible, and so California. But it is definitely not the only way to boost research and development, or even the main way, and it is certainly not the way most major innovations in the US came about during the twentieth century.

  5. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.