Summer Sabbatical

I was surprised – perhaps readers were too – when Economic Principals failed to deliver two weeks in a row. In eighteen years of writing for The Boston Globe, I never paused the Sunday column.  There was too much to write about; the space was too valuable, the summer audience in New England too good to pass up. The habit carried over when I moved to the Web; and for the last eight years I have seldom missed a Sunday. 

In the last couple of weeks, however, I ran into a wall. Plenty else is going on in life: consolidating offices, taking on additional writing assignments, keeping up with a promised book.

Topics that formerly would have been adequately reported seemed flimsy. Developments that were genuinely interesting turned out to belong in the book. The astonishing growth of the blogosphere – and of traditional media’s response – was intermittently dizzying. From some events I was too remote to have much to add.

This last is especially true of events in Washington. Two years ago EP reported the story of Harvard University President Drew Faust’s decision to overrule a senior job offer that the economics department had wanted to make to Christina Romer, of the University of California at Berkeley, a leading historian of monetary policy in the Great Depression.  Six months later Romer was named Chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

There’s nothing surprising about Romer’s decision to return to California after the traditional maximum of two years of academic leave – a son starts high school in September, and she is among those being considered to replace Janet Yellen as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. (Yellen is expected to be confirmed as vice chair of the Fed’s Board of Governors.)

Nor will it be surprising if National Economic Adviser Lawrence Summers chooses to return to Harvard in the winter, when his own two years of leave are up (though it is not inconceivable he will arrange to stay in Washington for another year).

Indeed, all EP can add to the news that Peter Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board had been returned to the White House after Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) made his opposition a matter of personal privilege is to observe that Diamond’s selection – a brilliant choice – was Summers’ doing.    

So I’m going to take the rest of August off, head up to Michigan, and return on September 5 with a clearer picture of what to produce in the coming years.


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