The Institute for New Economic Thinking will be hosting an event in DC on May 5-6 on the topic of Finance & Society. The conference agenda features some of the most powerful female economists in the world such as Janet Yellen and Christine Lagarde. It also will feature a talk by Elizabeth Warren.
I support the effort to get more female voices represented in the economic conversation. Just the other day I was working with one of our program administrators to look into the number of female PhDs that have graduated through our fellowship program at the Mercatus Center at GMU. Between 1983-2001 the number was 7, but between 2002-2015 that number has grown to 23. The economic conversation is enriched by new voices and new thinking.
So I was somewhat surprising to see the featuring of Yellen, Lagarde and Warren at the Institute for "New" Economic Thinking -- the quotes are around "New" for the very reason that there is absolutely nothing new in the message these particular female voices have to offer. Yellen is a well respected economist who is extremely conventional New Keynesian style of thinker. Lagarde is a politicized economist of the traditional technocratic and social engineering Keynesianism. And Warren is not really an economic thinker at all, but a populist economic quack who might be some weird mix between Marx, Veblen and Keynes. But at least each of those thinkers were coherent and thought seriously about the economic system -- Warren doesn't rise to that standard.
There is no doubt that each of these women are extremely powerful -- perhaps the most powerful women in the world of finance & society today. But there is no "new" thinking, but merely various levels of sophistication (from very in Yellen to non-existent in Warren) of a set of ideas about economic policy that have dominated discourse in the western democracies since WWII.
I want badly to embrace new thinking and new voices in the economics discipline, unfortunately this platform for the powerful is not that promising on that front. Too bad that INET seems to have been captured by the desire to be politically relevant and to be another platform in the economic discourse for those who already command center stage as the main powerbrokers in the global financial system.