My preceding blogpost, the Hour of the Technocrats, was inspired by the recent accession of Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos, both professional economists, to the prime ministerships of Italy and Greece, respectively. Today we turn to the U.S., where the political process seldom views academic credentials benevolently.
In the United States, Senator Richard Shelby scorned President Obama’s 2010 nomination of Peter Diamond, an eminent MIT Professor of Economics, and prevented his confirmation as a governor of the Federal Reserve Board. The Alabama Senator farfetchedly claimed that the nominee was not qualified, and persisted despite the coincidence that Diamond won the Nobel Prize in Economics soon after his nomination (deservedly). But, then, Shelby was holding up an astounding 70 of President Obama’s nominations, just to try to get two pork projects in his home state funded. Diamond finally withdrew in June 2011, because Shelby and other anti-technocratic Senators had blocked the confirmation process for 14 months and were clearly going to continue to do so. Diamond, like Axel Weber in my preceding blogpost, was comfortable foregoing the limelight.
April 1 is Census Day. Evidently Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann have been encouraging Americans to boycott the census — to refuse to fill out the whole form. This protest follows from their small government ideology.
I am not always sure what they, or Republicans, or Tea Party participants mean by small government. They say they want a government that intervenes less in the economic sphere. Perhaps they don’t like the idea that the census numbers are used, among other things, to determine the allocation of federal spending across states, because they don’t think it is the business of the government to redistribute income. That is “socialism.” Even “Stalinism.”