Stiglitz Watch, Day Two: How About the World Bank?

In response to my question about who has kidnapped Joseph Stiglitz and why he isn’t part of the Obama economic team, Robert Waldmann answers:

Look the problem is simple, Stiglitz is not a team player. You ask and Summers is he a team player ? The answer is clear — yes if the team is an administration. If you hire Stiglitz he *will* embarrass you later by resigning and criticizing you.

I’m wondering whether this really can explain it.

1) Stiglitz did write Globalization and Its Discontents about how he believes international economic policy was mishandled during the late 90’s. But there, he wasn’t in the administration, strictly speaking: he was the chief economist of the World Bank. As far as I know, he did not write a kiss and tell about his time as CEA chair from 1993 to 1997. And he didn’t resign and embarrass the Clinton Administration in either place: he was forced out of the World Bank.

2) Is writing a memoir of government service really going to disqualify anyone from it? That would get rid of just about everyone in DC. Besides, I haven’t finished Discontents, but mid-way through, it’s about serious policy differences. It’s not a gossip book.

3) Maybe it would be a good idea to have some dissent on the economic team from the left, but from someone who has the financial chops to keep up with anyone, and who understands markets about as well as anyone.

My proposal at this point would be that perhaps Stiglitz would be a great replacement for Bob Zoellick at the World Bank. Stiglitz knows the territory, and it plays to his strengths without unnecessarily getting him into a smackdown with Summers.

An even more intriguing possibility is seeing whether Obama could appoint Stiglitz as the managing director of the IMF. He has been quite critical of IMF policy in the past. The Fund is badly in need of reform.

Traditionally, the Europeans choose the IMF managing director and the US chooses the World Bank head. That’s highly anachronistic in the post-American world.

A change that I would really like to see would be Stiglitz going to the IMF, with a (quasi) European like the excellent Turkish economist Kemal Dervis heading up the World Bank. That would send a real signal that the United States is changing its outlook, but at the same time, insisting on real professionalism.

But I’m just a blogger: these suggestions and $1.75 will buy you a cup of coffee.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.