OFF THE GRID

Why Economists Are Sexy and the Euro Won’t be Worth a Dollar

Jun 7, 10 | 7:54 AM   byMichael Wolff
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At the Festival Economia in Trento, Italy, yesterday, Nouriel Roubini, the New York-based globe-trotting economist, who has been a mighty and consistent voice of financial apocalypse, said that the only way Europe could save itself from certain catastrophe (which would, in turn, double dip the rest of the world) was to let the euro fall to below parity with the dollar. Roubini noted, not disapprovingly, the euro’s historic low of 82 cents—compared to its recent high of $1.50.

It should be said that economists have perhaps never felt the way they feel now. Never before have they felt so central, so needed, so powerful. They say “crisis” with a religious and perhaps even sexual fervor. To be an economist, in these last few years and in the next few to come, is to be…a kind of rock star.

Indeed, one of the sub-topics at the Festival Economia is the media, which is how I got here. The media focus has to do with the historical transition of the business, but it is clearly, too, about the new interest on the part of many economists in the media business. Status, if not immortality, in the economist profession is now as much about understanding media as it is about building statistical models. Next to the way they say the word “crisis,” so redolent with excitement and opportunity, is the way they say the name “Paul Krugman,” breathlessly and awestruck.

And, also, the way they say Nouriel Roubini, who got the biggest turnout at the conference. Krugman with his Nobel and left-wing politics is saint-like, and Roubini, with his tireless self-promotion and seizing of all opportunities—and the personal fortune he has likely amassed in the process—is more devilish.


(AP Photo)

Perhaps more than any other economist, Roubini, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Billy Crystal (he speaks in an accent reminiscent of the one Crystal used when saying, “there's too much pepper on my paprikash,” in When Harry Met Sally), speaks directly to the media (even more than Krugman, who largely gets his media cred from the institutional backing of the New York Times). Roubini does this by eschewing the usual economist trademark of fumphering and gnashing of teeth, and makes a concise analysis of what has gone wrong, what will likely continue to go wrong, and what terrible result will befall us.

But what seems most compelling and fearful and confounding about him to other economists is that his ultimate mastery of the media seems to mean that what he predicts—said so succinctly and spread so rapidly—actually comes true.

That’s a kind of economics that no economists has ever before practiced.

Anyway, if you’ve got a few bucks, you’ll shortly be able to buy Europe.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.

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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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