Of Joseph Stiglitz and Double Standards

Just out of curiosity, why hasn’t this story generated more of a fuss?

Columbia University economics professor Joseph Stiglitz, the liberal economist and scourge of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has a long list of accomplishments. His curriculum vitae runs 56 pages, to be exact.

It nonetheless omits a number of his speaking and consulting engagements and puts the Nobel laureate in violation of Columbia Business School’s basic academic transparency and disclosure policies. That’s a particularly sensitive matter for Columbia, which drastically tightened those policies in 2011, when an Academy Award–nominated documentary brought embarrassing and unwanted attention to some of the university’s most respected faculty members. The movie, Inside Job, shone a light on what appeared, at least to some, to be conflicts of interest: As the nation’s economy melted down, Columbia professors profited from undisclosed consulting agreements with some of the institutions at the center of the financial crisis at the same time that they were weighing in as supposedly objective policy experts.

That’s why the policy Columbia adopted in 2011 requires faculty members to maintain a current curriculum vitae on their official Columbia Business School webpage that includes a section titled “Outside Activities.” The new policy specifies the following:

The section must list the nature of the activity and the name of all outside organizations for which he or she has provided paid or unpaid services during the past five years, including but not limited to services provided as researcher, consultant, case writer, teacher, speaker, board member, executive, or expert witness.

Stiglitz, a former chairman of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers and chief economist at the World Bank, makes the bulk of his considerable income from these outside activities. As he has pushed for changes in the rules of global capitalism, he has profited handsomely as a capitalist himself. He has written more than a dozen books; he commands international speaking fees starting at $40,000 (his speaker’s bureau flashes the cover of his book, The Price of Inequality, on his speaker page, next to his stated fee: “over $40,000”); he is paid $1,000 an hour for his expert testimony; he has even starred in a documentaryAround the World with Joseph Stiglitz. In the wake of a nasty divorce, he sued his own divorce attorney in 2005 in part for her failure to protect from his ex-wife the $300,000 he received from the Nobel Committee.

The story goes on to note that Glenn Hubbard–who, unlike Stiglitz, just happens to be a right-of-center economist–got all kinds of grief in Inside Job for not having disclosed paid consulting arrangements on his curriculum vitae. If Hubbard deserved that sort of opporobrium, why doesn’t Stiglitz get any? Indeed, why didn’t he get any opprobrium when Inside Job was released?

Please don’t tell me that the answer is something along the lines of “well, Stiglitz is not a right-of-center economist, and therefore, is entitled to certain protections from criticism that right-of-center economists simply cannot avail themselves of.” Because I would be shocked–shocked–to find out that this might be the case.