From today's Globe and Mail:
A surfeit of rah-rah, a dearth of serious debate: Take the economics profession. Very few economists in the private sector take on the big-picture national issues – the TD Economics unit being a significant exception – preferring instead to analyze the ups and downs of the stock market and this quarter's economic growth, or lack thereof.
Where were (and are) the country's university and business economists on the biggest hole blown in federal finances in decades – the two-point reduction in the goods and services tax? Was their silence explained by the fact that they were a) too busy with their pie-in-the-sky mathematical models on which university tenure and promotion depend, b) too afraid of offending the government, or c) too lazy to care?
Whatever the reason, the group that theoretically had much to offer the country largely took a pass.
Okay, one partial response is that whenever economists were asked about the GST cut, their answers were pretty clear. Perhaps an additional question is why economists' opinions were systematically ignored.
But there is a deeper point, and it is one that worries me as well: Simpson's option a) is probably the closest to the truth. For whatever reason - and I have my own theories as to why - Canadian academic economists have not paid sufficient attention to our responsibility to participate in public debate.