January 2009

Some of the nation's top economists, including two Nobel laureates and the president of a regional Federal Reserve office, convened Jan. 31 for "Leadership in Times of Crisis: Economic Science and the Constitution," a discussion about the economic crisis.

The broad question of concern was the role of leadership in democratic capitalism. In closed sessions, the scholars discussed questions such as: How do we improve institutions in the face of evidence that they require reform? What are the relationships among finance, trust and ethics? How does leadership help ensure that we adhere to recognized standards? What can we do to make transparency incentive compatible? What is the proper role for public discussion and for expert judgment during an economic crisis such as this?

Participants included historians, macroeconomists, financial economists and policy makers. The discussants included: 

  • Jeffrey M. Lacker, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond president, who has direct experience with the policy response to the crisis;
  • James Buchanan, constitutional political economist and Nobel laureate, whose focus is on the broad question of implementing reform in the recovery period;
  • Vernon Smith, experimental economist and Nobel laureate, whose research on housing markets and speculation shed light on the relationship between ethics and finance.

The conference was organized into three sessions, each focused on a theme: standards, transparency and experts.
The final session, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., was open to the public. At this session conference participants presented some summary remarks and took questions from the audience.

The conference was organized by Sandra J. Peart, dean of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, and David M. Levy, professor of economics at George Mason University.

Coverage of the conference: 

Sponsors for the event were the Robins School of Business, the Jepson School of Leadership Studies, the Office of the Provost of the University of Richmond and The Richmond Quest.