Econ: Better to be accredited and wrong … or not accredited and right?

First. my stake in the game: I consider myself an economist … at heart and by schooling … majored in econ … grad work in applied econ … worked for awhile doing econometrics.

Econ still permeates my marketing strategy work.

So, I was naturally drawn by an article in the UK Independent:

“Fraudster  fools a whole nation: Portuguese economics pundit exposed as conman.”

Just looking at this dude has gotta set off some alarm bells …

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Here’s the story and my take on the question ….

According to The Independent

As an ex-presidential consultant, a former adviser to the World Bank, a financial researcher for the United Nations and a professor in the US, Artur Baptista da Silva’s outspoken attacks on Portugal’s austerity cuts made the bespectacled 61-year-old one of the country’s leading media pundits last year.

The only problem was that Mr Baptista da Silva is none of the above.

He turned out to be a convicted forger with fake credentials and, following his spectacular hoodwinking of Portuguese society, he could soon face fraud charges.

Mr Baptista da Silva’s conversion into the latest must-interview figure on the media circuit began when he turned up last April at Lisbon’s main philanthropic institution, the Academia do Bacalhau, with a large supply of business cards – which, it later turned out, bore false credentials – and an impressive-sounding dissertation entitled Growth, Inequality and Poverty. Looking Beyond Averages which, it also transpired, was “borrowed” from its writer, a World Bank employee, via the internet.

At the time, Mr Baptista da Silva also claimed to be a social economics professor at Milton College – a private university in Wisconsin, US, which actually closed in 1982.

He even, some reports say, tried to pass himself off as a former adviser to Portugal’s President, Joaio Sampaio, and the World Bank.

Blessed with such an impressive CV, Mr Baptista’s subsequent criticisms of the Lisbon government’s far-reaching austerity cuts … struck a deep chord with its financially beleaguered population.

According to the Spanish newspaper El País, his powerfully delivered comments at a debate at the International Club, a prestigious Lisbon cultural and social organisation, were greeted with thunderous applause and a part-standing ovation.

That was followed by an interview for the radio station TSF, appearances in high-profile television debates and well-publicised meetings with trade union leaders to advise them on economic policies.

Mr Baptista da Silva’s sudden appearance among the intellectual elite caused amazement among his former cellmates … and media investigations eventually uncovered his prison record and fake university titles, though Mr Baptista da Silva’s claims to have studied economics have not been categorically disproven.

After sending out a press release blasting his former journalist friends and colleagues for what he called a “witch-hunt”, Mr Baptista da Silva has now disappeared completely from public life, and there are reports he is under investigation for fraud charges by the police.

Fraud charges?  For impersonating an economist?

Gimme a break.

I understand what certifies a doctor, or lawyer, or CPA … and so, I understand how claiming to be one of them is fraud.

And, I understand how there can be serious consequences if a doctor, lawyer or CPA blows one.

What exactly certifies an economist?

More precisely, what certifies someone to be an “economics pundit”?

A university degree? A specific job?

There have been lots of folks — with varied backgrounds —  flapping their jaws the past couple of years (or hundreds of years) with economic analysis and projections.

Like weathermen, they’re often wrong. Sometimes 180 degrees wrong.

Many have a core competency in self-promotion.

OK, Mr Baptista da Silva puffed his resume … and didn’t proactively disclose his prison centences.

So what?

I say, tip-the-hat to this showman and call it a day.

Some folks (not me) think his economic message was on target.

And, tere isn’t evidence that he hurt anyone.

I say,  turn the spotlight on accredited economists like Christine Romer, Austan Goolsbee  and Jared Bernstein .. Obama’s former “Dream Team” of econpmists that blewthru a trillion-dollars of our money,  promising that the unemployment rate wouldn’t go over 8%.

Oops.

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That group actually did damage … and cost us money … lots of money.

Mr Baptista da Silva’ just provided some good theater.

So, I ask … is it ok to wrong … as long as you’re accredited?

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