Spies Play Economists, Economists Play Spies

The New York Times on Friday the 13th headlined “Global Economy Top Threat to U.S., Spy Chief Says.” Many other papers followed suit with similar prominent headlines. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair staged a raid on the Big Issue of the Day as a “security threat” and thus something falling within his bureaucratic turf. Thanks, Spy Chief, but we have enough trouble sorting out the advice of the expert economists on the Global Financial Crisis without adding the amateur opinions of spies.

Of course, Spy Chief’s turf raid could just be retaliation for foreign aid economists' even more audacious turf raids on the worlds of spies and generals. Aid economists like Paul Collier in his book The Bottom Billion are trying to micro-manage the deployment of UN and Western armies around the globe, suggesting aid economists have hitherto-unsuspected access to both global intelligence and military knowledge.

Here’s an even more audacious proposal. Let’s go back to that old-fashioned world called Division of Labor and Gains from Specialization, where spies were spies, generals were generals, and economists were economists.