Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Stiglitz vs Stiglitz

The Indonesian Economists Association (ISEI -- No, they don't have a website!) and Economica, a student-run organization at the Department of Economics University of Indonesia (I recall they HAD a website -- but it's lost in the cyberspace, no?) are hosting a public lecture featuring the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz. Mind you, "public" here means you have to pay Rp 5 millions for the ticket. That's $500. Man, I'd rather use that money for more useful activities like this, this, or this.

Yet, I might be part of the conspiracy now. The committee has asked me to become a jury for an essay competition. The idea is, the first and second winner will get free ticket to the Stiglitz lecture. They have to write a good essay exploring Stiglitz's economics views on development. I repeat: on development. That means, he's going to talk again about the increasingly boring stuff of globalization (for better or worse). So yes, it's about Stiglitz the anti-IMF, not about Stiglitz the respectable risk-and-information economist. It seems to me, people take Stiglitz too much for a somewhat incorrect cause. Just because he won the Nobel prize for economics, people think he is good in everything. Well, I think he is good but he is certainly not the best, when it comes to politics. Or put it this way: when I need to learn about politics (or, even, development), I would not read Stiglitz for reference. As for a econ-popularizer, I'd rather read Krugman.

Poor Stiglitz. As I always say in my microeconomics class: read Stiglitz papers in JET (on risk and uncertainty), QJE (on imperfect information), and AER (on monopoly and the rate of extraction of exhaustible resources) -- each requires subscription. THEN, go ahead read the entertaining "Globalization and Its Discontents" or "Roaring Nineties". Then you can see his split personality: smart economist and somewhat-lousy political analyst.

So yes, Stiglitz is kind of overrated. But he seems to enjoy it. Well, At least I hope he will clarify what his Nobel was for.

A note on the essay competition. These 5 finalist essays: most of them mistake Stiglitz. Some even seem to think Stiglitz won the Nobel for his war against the World Bank, IMF, and the WTO. (Oh, by the way, I found one plagiarist. Rather than grant him a $500-worth ticket, I would suggest to fine him $1000 for the cheat).

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