The Intersection (w/ Pedro da Costa & Adam Posen)
PEDRO DA COSTA: Well, thank you so much, Adam. I want to jump into a portion of our interview called The Intersection, which is a quick rapid fire series of questions that we asked all of our guests. Thanks for bearing with me. ADAM POSEN: You left them in the actual studio. Okay. PEDRO DA COSTA: Exactly. This is it. You got it. The first one, is there one person living or dead whom you'd like to sit down for an interview with, you being the interviewer? If so, who and why? ADAM POSEN: Either Ted Williams or John Maynard Keynes, because they both are the best who ever lived in each of their professions. PEDRO DA COSTA: What is the book or books that have changed your view of the world and how so? What are you reading right at the moment? ADAM POSEN: I must admit rather shamefully that I'm reading very little beyond COVID and economics straight up. I saw the thing New York Times the other day about Joe Stiglitz is reading every literary novel in history book. Joe Stiglitz is six standard deviations more smart than I am. PEDRO DA COSTA: I'm trying to catch up on my COVID literature myself. That's great. What about long term, what books have [?] your life? ADAM POSEN: Particularly thinking about this week, thinking about the G20 and the efforts we've tried to explain why collective action is not just some fantasy, but as deliverable benefits, there was a fabulous short book called The Logic of Collective Action by Mancur Olson came out nearly 50 years ago now. It's just full of insights and how to think about this. I also I think that the history is in many ways as so many people are now saying is the most important thing to read. I think Jared Diamond's work in big picture history is sometimes sloppy, of course, overgeneralized but getting from him into the literature about what pestilence, large scale changes have meant for the world in the past, I think it's really important. PEDRO DA COSTA: Thinking of over the course of your career, I was wondering if there's a particular juncture or a person that you think of where you think things just made a big change and put you on the path that you ended up on. ADAM POSEN: There were three. First was when I came out of grad school in economics. I've had a rough time in grad school, I didn't do very well. I took leave for a while to work. I didn't like grad school and grad school didn't like me very much. I got a job at the New York Fed and Rick Michigan teach at Columbia at that time, become the Executive Vice President, chief economist, and he gave me an opportunity to really do good work and encouraged me in a way that was incredible for my career. Similarly, a few years after that, Fred Bergsten that I founded with the Peterson Institute, who was the director, who you know, he gave me the chance to come in and be a fellow and take risks and do writing and opine like I was a big grown up at a very early stage in my career then, and that was enormous for my opportunity in my life. Those two, there were other people and other opportunities, but those were the critical junctures for me professionally. PEDRO DA COSTA: Can you think of a roadblock or like a failure or something that happened that like that sets you straight, or that taught you a lesson? ADAM POSEN: Again, I'll pick two. One was just simply really flaming out my first couple years of grad school and having to think hard about why I was doing that. Again, it's not tragedy, but it's very emotional and burdensome at the time when you're doing that. There are people, one my grad school classmates is Michael Kramer, who won the Nobel Prize this year, and he was lovely human being in addition to being a fantastic scholar, and so you're-- PEDRO DA COSTA: If you don't know, 50% of economics candidates dropped out of their PhD program, I believe, or something like that. ADAM POSEN: It's not a very friendly, welcoming profession. Again, I was [?] perfectly fine but there's been a lot of documentation about women, people of color, anybody who doesn't come from a privileged background that I did gets even worse. Grad school was very hard for me. It taught me to be a little more humble, a little more risk taking, but ultimately in the end, and this was borne out by things that I wrote about faced in the crisis a dozen years ago, a lot of the stuff that I thought was just fundamentally wrong, either ideologically or too academic in grad school, turns out I was right. I wasn't smart enough to know how to write them and point them out in a persuasive way at the time, but I was writing about some of those things that proved to be very wrong. The other issue was in 2003, I have a neck injury, which led to a stroke and I lost part of my vision. Luckily, I'm basically healthy now except for being fat. PEDRO DA COSTA: I had no idea. ADAM POSEN: Well, so I might have been smarter before that happened. That took me a good six months, I'm out of rehab, but just getting myself back together and psychology, and my wife was wonderful. Anyway, just like for many people, it gives you and that was in my early 30s, so it gives you a sense of vulnerability and fragility of life that I was already somewhat cognizant of because my father have been very a lot of my childhood, but it reinforced it and again, like with grad school though, I came out the other side, I was fortunate enough to live, it's now 16 plus years later and I'm still okay so that again, gives you a sense of humility and gratitude but also a sense of okay, this too shall pass. I can survive. Sorry to go a bit heavy but those-- PEDRO DA COSTA: Not at all. Actually, that's a wonderful way to end because I think that that's not-- you didn't just make it 16 years past, you thrived then you accomplish so much, you became a global central banker and you run a fantastic think tank and you have all these intellect to offer us and our viewers so thank you so much for sharing them. ADAM POSEN: Very generous, my friend. Thank you for having me and thank you for continuing to be a voice of progressive but honest real values in the economic debate.