My tweets and the controversy have received some attention in the press. There is an article in the NY Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/10/business/economy/white-economists-black-lives-matter.html written by Jim Tankersley @jimtankersley and Ben Casselman @bencasselman. Here is the full and unedited interview, which was conducted per e-mail.
On 6/9/2020 8:01 PM, Harald Uhlig wrote:
Thank you for your e-mail! I appreciate the opportunity. Also, while more difficult, I am glad we can do this by e-mail. it surely is important to avoid misunderstandings. I just returned from dinner, and we have a tornado warning now. Let me try my best.
- Earlier today, you said on Twitter
that you did not choose your words wisely, and that you apologized for that.
What were you apologizing for? What do you believe you did wrong in your tweets
and blog posts?
I do not wish to pour more oil into
the flames by compiling a list. One example: my comparison of those
advocating extreme defunding of the police with "flat earthers and
creationists" appears to have caused irritation, and I talk about that at
some length in my recent blog post in particular.
- In one of the blog posts that surfaced last week, you compared football players' protests over police violence to someone wearing a KKK hood. Do you believe that comparison was fair?
The blog post was meant to ask for
introspection and examination as to how far you would go to defend free speech,
and whether the debate about kneeling is truly a debate about free
speech. I chose an extreme example on purpose, where most of us, me
included, would find exercising such free speech repugnant. It is easy to
defend someones stand as free speech, when you agree with that person. It
is hard, when you passionately disagree. You surely know the Voltaire
quote, “I wholly disapprove of what you say and will defend to the death your
right to say it.” I am actually genuinely curious, what you would do in
that hypothetical situation. Would you mind telling me?
I, of course, sympathize with the concerns about police brutality, which kneeling football players refer to. I find the KKK repugnant. So, in terms of sympathy, there is no "comparison" here.
In retrospect, the chosen example was too extreme, in order to get people to think through the issues at hand, and I surely regret that: it seems to unnecessarily have aggravated some. Out of curiosity, again: what would you have chosen as an illuminating example?
- Taken together, the tweets, blog posts and NYTimes letter that have been circulated on Twitter in the past few days appear to show that you have a history of dismissing or downplaying Black American's concerns about discrimination and violence. Why is that?
Can you give me a specific example?
- In a public letter calling for your resignation, some of your peers in the profession have said that your comments "hurt and marginalize people of color and their allies in the economics profession; call into question his impartiality in assessing academic work on this and related topics; and damage the standing of the economics discipline in society." Do you agree that your comments did these things?
- Some of your colleagues in the
profession have called for you to step down from your position as editor of
JPE. Do you plan to do so?
I would have to see their reasoning.
- In their recent letter to members,
the leadership of the AEA said they had "learned that our
professional climate is a hostile one for Black economists." Do you agree?
Do you believe that the economics field has a problem with race and racism?
That message and the website of the
AEA points to the "AEA Professional Climate Survey: Final Report",
issued in September 2019. This is an excellent step forward.
Statements like "Nearly half (47%) of Black economists report being discriminated
against or treated unfairly in the profession based on their race, in
comparison to 24% of Asians, 16% of Latinx, and 4% of White survey
respondents" raise grave concerns. Discrimination and racism is
Knowing these numbers is good, but a
lot more needs to happen. Specifics would help. Where and
how? What measures would help those on the receiving end to get
themselves heard? Investigating this hopefully will be an ongoing matter
for the AEA, for example.
- Do you believe it is a problem
that there are so few Black and Hispanic economists, particularly in senior
positions in the profession?
I would love to have more black
economists (or is it "Afro-American economists"?) among our
undergraduate students, PhD students and faculty. It is my impression
that the good ones are highly sought after. We also have very few
American Indians among our colleagues. We need to find good way to change
- Do you believe that your position
as editor of one of the field's most prominent journals gives you any added
responsibility to ensure that the field is welcoming to Black economists and
other underrepresented minorities?
Black economists and underrepresented minorities are encouraged to submit their best work to the JPE, and I hope they do. I have never checked the color of the skin of an author submitting to the JPE, and it should not matter.
- In your time as editor of JPE, how many articles have you solicited or accepted on issues related to racial discrimination?
I would have to go through my list of all papers handled as an editor, but I do not recall having received papers on issues related to racial discrimination for me to edit. I have solicited very few papers.
I hope this helps,