The highs and lows of Larry Summers

Just to remind ourselves that even the rich and famous and fabulously successful have their travails, it is helpful to reflect on the situation of Larry Summers.

One of the most brilliant economists of a generation loaded with media and academic superstars (Jeff Sachs, Paul Krugman) Summers has already been Secretary of the Treasury, President of Harvard University, and a top White House economic advisor, as well as reeling in millions from consulting and jobs on Wall Street.

He is the epitome of what my colleague Janine Wedel calls a flexion – someone able to move smoothly, almost invisibly, across top roles in academe, government, and the private sector, picking up influence and wealth as they go.

Yet Summers wanted one more such position: Chairman of the Federal Reserve. He was unable to get it, due to criticisms, some fair and some unfair, that associated him with Obama’s responses to the financial crisis in 2008, and with causing the crisis by his promotion of loose regulation of Wall Street firms when in the Clinton administration a decade earlier.

So even the superstars have their disappointments. But if you are Larry Summers, which stings worse: having to withdraw from consideration for the job, or hearing that the markets rallied mightily on the news of his withdrawal?

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About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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