Chicago Booth Economic Outlook - Lunch with Giants

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business 2019 Economic Outlook Luncheon in Chicago. In addition to the great discussions had with other attendees, the main attraction was listening to the star studded panel, academically speaking at least, of Booth professors discuss their views on the state of the economy. The discourse was engaging, and challenging in a way that reinforced the degree of expertise of the speakers. The panel consisted of:

Austan Goolsbee - The Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at Booth. Dr. Goolsbee served as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Obama and was a member of his cabinet. He’s also a member of the Economic Advisory Panel to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and a frequent guest contributor on business television.

Randall Kroszner - The Deputy Dean for the Executive Programs and the Norman R. Bobins Professor of Economics at Booth. Dr. Kroszner served as a Governor of the Federal Reserve System from 2006 until 2009, and was instrumental in the Fed’s response to the 2008 Financial Crisis. He also worked in the Bush administration as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. He, too, is a frequent guest contributor on business television.

Raghuram Rajan - The Katherine Dusak Miller Distinguished Service Professor of Finance at Booth. Dr. Rajan was the 23rd Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and has served as the Chief Economist and Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund.

These short lists of accomplishments don’t even begin to cover the achievements of these men. Take a moment to learn more about their backgrounds by clicking on the links in their names.

My main takeaway from the event was how diverse the opinions of these three giants of economics were. Despite working at the same highly prestigious University, studying many of the same topics, each had a different opinion on nearly every topic addressed compared to the others. In the instances where consensus was reached, their reasoning behind that consensus opinion would often differ. It reminded me that regardless of how smart and well informed we are, three people can look at the exact same set of circumstances and, based on their own personal experiences and views of the world, come to very different conclusions. That’s what makes economic and market forecasting so difficult. Only time will tell which of these giants of economics will prove the most prophetic.

The general consensus among the group, however, was that the US economy is generally pretty strong, but that uncertainties were rising. From debt levels to rising interest rates and international trade negotiations, there seemed to be consensus that much of the slow down that’s been felt recently comes from policy uncertainty. This uncertainty is accelerating the natural slow down that was expected for 2019. That being said, the only GDP growth number thrown out during the event was 2.5% for 2019, which no one seemed to disagree with. At worst that would represent a modest slowdown compared to 2018.

There were many fascinating topics discussed throughout the event, so I’ll be picking a few of my favorites to go into in more detail in future posts, so stay tuned.