Economics - General

Insider vs. Outsider

A post from Ben Casnocha has some really good insights about the pros and cons of being an insider vs. an outsider. I excerpt a parts of the post below:

A striking section of Elizabeth Warren’s memoir is about advice she says Larry Summers once offered her:

After dinner, “Larry leaned back in his chair and offered me some advice,” Ms. Warren writes. “I had a choice. I could be an insider or I could be an outsider. Outsiders can say whatever they want. But people on the inside don’t listen to them. Insiders, however, get lots of access and a chance to push their ideas. People — powerful people — listen to what they have to say. But insiders also understand one unbreakable rule: They don’t criticize other insiders.

…As an outsider, I relish the opportunity to think independently and speak my mind. But as Summers suggests, my outsider status relegates me to the margins of the “conversation.” As an insider, I tend to feel muzzled — i.e. countless blog posts drafted and then deleted. But I have the most impact on the world when I’m on the inside of a power structure, exerting influence.

Clearly, this is a challenge many economists face when looking for jobs after graduate school. The prototypical “outsider” is the academic who has the opportunity to be critical of nearly all parties. Academics, however, are often seen as “ivory tower” and aloof from the on the ground details necessary for successful implementation of policy. Insiders, on the other hand, could be people working on behalf of industry. There is more power to make change as an insider, but one must be aware of potential conflicts of interest. Outsiders often view insider as corrupt; insiders often view outsiders as detached from reality or insufficiently detail oriented. There is no clear “optimal” career path, but there exciting avenues for both the insider and outsider perspective.

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