In praise of… David Blanchflower.

The Guardian has today devoted its “In praise of …” editorial to the economist Professor David Blanchflower who was the first  member of the Bank of England‘s interest rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee (MPC)to realize just how serious the credit crunch was.

Editorial: In praise of… David Blanchflower

25 March 2009

Even if he had not become the Bank of England‘s biggest dissenter – the Threadneedle One – David Blanchflower would still have been a remarkable economist. His academic interests lie in jobs and wages and happiness – stuff that actually matters to lay people, but which researchers usually ignore, to spend more time with their dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models. He can translate findings into non-academic language, as befits someone who last year described his research technique to this paper as “the economics of walking about: you ask people what’s going on in their lives and you take seriously what answers they give you”. His stint on the Bank’s monetary policy committee brought Professor Blanchflower into the public eye. He was the first on the MPC to spot the seriousness of the credit crunch, and for a long time the only one to advocate cutting rates in response. The Bank may be operationally independent, but outspokenness is not necessarily prized in its staff. The professor was much ridiculed, yet kept on standing out until everyone else caught up. The course of this crisis would have been very different had others shown such intellectual courage. Professor Blanchflower was at it again last night, with a speech that criticised as “utopian” the typical assumptions of central bankers that markets are perfect and people always rational. That combination of intellectual pedigree and plain common sense will be much missed when he steps down from the MPC this spring.

 

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It’s worth reminding ourselves that the “combination of intellectual pedigree and plain common sense” for which The Guardian praises Professor Blanchflower may disappear from the MPC this spring when he steps down. However, it’s worth remembering that it can still be found elsewhere. The Guardian itself, and its sister paper, The Observer, have both attracted writers, such as Will Hutton, William Keegan and Simon Caulkin who, though they may never have the ear of the great and the good in the way Blanchflower’s (dissenting) voice, display an intellectual pedigree and plain common sense that is worthy of our attention.

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