This is how economists haze each other

What grade will he give the young economists? (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
What grade will he give the young economists? (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Imagine that you're a college basketball player and find out that Michael Jordan is the stands on a scouting trip. Or that you're fresh out of law school and learn that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is interviewing you for that junior partner position. Or you're in a garage band and Dave Grohl is reviewing your show for Rolling Stone.

That's basically what just happened to Johannes Wieland and Joshua Hausman, two newly minted economists who will be presenting a paper on Japan's attempts to break free from deflation and slow growth at the Brookings Institution's invitation-only spring conference next month.

And who will be critiquing the paper? None other than Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman and former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

BOOM.

“The two just suggested themselves. Who else would you want to hear discussing the work?” said Justin Wolfers, a senior fellow at Brookings who handled the agenda.

Brookings sought out Wieland, an economist at the University of California-San Diego, in hopes of getting a fresh perspective on so-called Abenomics, the nickname for Japan's economic experiment under Prime Minster Shinzo Abe. Wieland brought in Hausman, his classmate from UC-Berkeley and a former research assistant at the Fed who worked briefly under Bernanke. Both earned their doctorates last year.

"I think we're going to learn a lot more because these are guys who don't have dug-in positions," Wolfers said. "Young authors are hungry, willing to get in, get their hands dirty."

The Brookings conference always draws some heavy-hitters, but it's safe to say that the authors didn't expect quite such an illustrious panel. Of course, they're not the only highlights in this wonkfest. Princeton professor and former White House chief economist Alan Krueger will present research on long-term unemployment, while Citigroup exec and former Congressional Budget Office director Peter Orszag will discuss a paper on the impact of the Obama administration's stimulus plan.

So, yeah, no pressure, young guns, no pressure.

Ylan Q. Mui is a financial reporter at The Washington Post covering the Federal Reserve and the economy.

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