By James Kwak
Here in the blogging world, some of us are very sensitive to the potential appearance of impropriety. A year ago, the FTC published new rules requiring bloggers to disclose cash and in-kind payments they receive for reviewing products. The upshot, for most of us, is simply that now, when we discuss a book, we say if we got a free copy of the book from the publisher. (Although it’s not clear that that disclosure is required, since getting a free copy is something that readers should expect; I don’t think the New York Times Book Review bothers pointing out that, for every book they review, they got a free copy, although they almost certainly did.)
All the more relevant, then, is Gerald Epstein’s post about conflicts of interest in the economics profession.
“Jessica Carrick-Hagenbarth and I did a study of 19 prominent academic financial economists who were members of two influential groups that have played a key role in the financial reform and regulation debate in the U.S. Of the 19 academic economists in these groups, 70% advised, owned significant stock in or were on the board of private financial institutions. But you wouldn’t know by looking at their self-identification in media appearances, policy work or academic papers.”
There are certainly economists who were talking up the housing market in the summer of 2008 without disclosing their financial ties to banks–who were desperately hoping that housing prices would not collapse.
C’mon, guys. I don’t even get very many free books (maybe one per month on average–I decline most of them), and I always disclose that. I know it’s not feasible to list every company that ever paid you to give a speech. But really, if you’re a paid director of a bank and you write about the banking industry, can’t you at least point that out?