Prominent names in economics and alums to honor Swarthmore

The Department of Economics is hosting a conference entitled “Economic Theory and Public Policy,” which will take place October 21-22, in honor of Professor Bernard Saffran, who passed away last November. Some of the most esteemed in economics will participate in roundtable discussions and former students of Saffran will present research papers on various topics in accordance with the
conference’s theme.

Professor “Bernie” Saffran touched the life of many a student and faculty member through his enthusiasm, kindness, and friendliness, in and out of the classroom setting. Academically, he was particularly interested in the interaction between economics and public policy.

“He was not someone who believed in theory for theory’s sake, nor public policy with no reason,” says Professor Mark Kuperberg.

In that spirit, the conference events will generate plenty of talk of how the one relates to the other. Today features two roundtable discussions, both to be held in Science Center 101. The first (scheduled for 4:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.), titled “The View From Outside Government (Mostly)” will pose such questions as what the biggest problem facing the U.S. economy may be and, in the words of economist George Stigler, whether the “study of economics makes one politically conservative,” to Peter Diamond (Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Albert Fishlow (Professor of International Affairs, Director Center for Brazilian Studies, Columbia University), and Alan Krueger (Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University).

The second discussion, “The View From Both Sides,” will ask of its participants examples illustrating the importance of economic theory in determining better public policies, and the role of politics in those decisions. Jeffrey Frankel ‘74 (James W. Harpel Professor, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University), Alice Rivlin, Honorary Degree ’76 (Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and Professor of Public Policy at Georgetown University), Joseph Stiglitz (University Professor, Columbia University, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Economics), and Sidney Winter ‘56 (Deloitte and Touche Professor of Management, Wharton School, University ofPennsylvania) will be the panelists. This discussion is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday will be a marathon of research papers in the Scheuer Room, as Saffran’s former students, some of whom are economics professors themselves now, present on topics like gay marriage, hazardous waste, crime, and more, starting at 9:00 a.m., with a different paper every hour until 4:00 p.m., excepting a lunch break at 12:00 p.m.

As for the significance of this conference, “this will be the most eminent group of economists that will appear on the Swarthmore campus at one time,” responds Kuperberg.

It will indeed be a unique opportunity for the campus at large, the entirety of which is encouraged to attend.

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