While searching for something else online, I just tripped over a letter to the editor from 1988. The letter was published during the 1988 presidential campaign, in response to a New York Times profile of the economists’ advising George H.W. Bush (“Poppy”) and Michael Dukakis (“Tankman”).
Larry Summers was the economist advising Mr. Dukakis. The profile of Prof. Summers in The Times
seemed to suggest that he thought the world was divided into people who mow lawns and people who have their lawns mowed based on how much people like mowing (i.e., based on what economists call people’s “preferences.”).
I thought that was a bit off key. So I wrote the following, published under the title “Economic Axioms
June 26, 1988To the Editor:
According to the economic theory of compensating differentials, workers in unpleasant or hazardous jobs should be paid more highly to compensate them. A corollary is that a person like Prof. Larry Summers (”The Economists Behind the Candidates,” June 5), who ”loves” his work, should be paid less. Of course, then he might not have enough to pay for someone to mow his lawn.
Stephen Herzenberg, Washington, June 5