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On Being a Public Economist
Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese
By "public economist" the author means an economist independent from the world of business and private interest, from political parties and public institutions, an economist hence free to serve what appears to him to be public interest. In this article, which is a sort of intellectual autobiography, Giersch reconstructs the stages of the route he himself followed to become an economist of this type, analysing the risks and satisfactions, the dangers and duties of this particular position. Starting with the problem of subjective judgements (and prejudices), which, according to the author, must be made clearly explicit right from the outset.
Giersch's experience in Germany as a member of the Board of Economic Advisers in the early sixties, has enabled him to follow and help to determine his country's economic policies from the "Keynesian years" (1950-1975) to the "Schumpeter era" (the last quarter of our century). By reconstructing the economic debate of three decades, and the gradual shift from a closed world to a more open one – due mainly to the reduced costs of communication – the author stresses how the public economist must look to the long-term and be ready to run the risk of being unpopular, as well as that of standing in open contrast with political decision-makers and finding himself isolated in the media system. Finally, he stresses that, for the public economist – balancing precariously on a sort of bridge between theory and practice, between "pure" economics and "impure" politics, between long-term reflection and daily journalism, between analytical research and the impressionistic assessment of current problems, between teaching students and dialogue with political decision-makers – the use of language that is as clear as possible, comprehensible to the uninitiated, is absolutely essential.