Thursday, May 31, 2012

Simon Johnson Can't Contain his Enthusiasm
(But He Would Say That, Wouldn't He?)

Simon Johnson excoriates Jamie Dimon for hanging onto his seat on the board of the Federal Reserve of New York.  No dissent from me on that one; Dimon's dual role sounds like a massivee case of double self dealing and richly deserves Johnson's rhetorical fusillade.

But he's got an odd way of going about it.  Johnson builds his argument on Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson,  the much-touted new meghistory of more or less everything.  In this we differ.  I was not overimpressed by Why Nations Fail.  Johnson, by contrast, can't contain his enthusiasm."Brilliant and sometimes breathtakin," he gushes.  "Tour de force."

Well, he's entitled to his opinion and I suppose he might even be right.  But the premise of the Dimon screed is the evil of self-dealing.   In a  paper about self-dealing, you'd think that Johnson might wanted to mention that he is a frequent co-author with Acemoglu and Robinson--a serial collaborator, almost to the point where you wonder why he isn't a co-author on the book. In a quick skim through his resume, I find 20 citations to co-authorship with Acemoglu, 15 with Robinson. Evidently Acemoglu and Robinson see it the same way I do.  Here's the lead paragraph in their acknowledgments:
THIS BOOK IS the culmination of fifteen years of collaborative research, and along the way we have accumulated a great deal of practical and intellectual debts. Our greatest debt is to our long-term collaborator Simon Johnson, who coauthored many of the key scientific papers that shaped our understanding
Acemoglu, Daron; Robinson, James (2012-03-20). Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty . Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition. 

Look, I don't suppose this is a big deal.  But isn't this an odd place to make yourself the judge of your own case?  There certainly was another way to make his (perfecctly legitimate) point about Jamie Dimon.  Underbelly calls "self-dealer, heal thyself."

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

Well, I read Simon Johnson's post and I have to say I didn't see much conflict of interest in his analysis.

In fact, the Fed as originally designed was an attempt to organize the banking system so it wouldn't keep having their chronic panics and bank runs because the banks were basically unregulated at the time and also becoming really big and powerful (hello, the original JP Morgan Bank that bailed out the USG at the turn of the 20th century!).

Anyway, financial globalization has changed everything. Bank of America is about to offshore their entire bank support/back office system to the Philippines and laying off tens of thousands of US employees. Thanks for the bailout and fuck you America. That's what it is all about with the MNCs.

We can continue to be compliant in the degradation of the US economy into Third World status but what's the point? The wealthy will also suffer though not so much. So, it's all relative.