Reminiscences of Miles Kimball, and others

Miles and I were in the same entering class in Harvard.  Miles and Abhijit Banerjee were for economic theory the sharpest students in the group and it must have been an absolute terror to teach them.  Both were gentlemanly in the extreme, but if a mistake or ambiguity were on the board, or in a paper, you could be sure they would find it and point it out.  I recall Abhijit answering a question on the macro final exam and showing that what he thought would be the supposed Harvard faculty member answer was in fact wrong, in addition to solving for the right answer, finding a few other possible equilibria, and acing the rest of the exam in but a few hours’ time.  Steve Kaplan, from the same class, later became known as an empirical economist but his theoretical acumen was remarkably good.  Those three dominated a lot of the discussions.  Mathias Dewatripont was also no slouch in theory though temperamentally quieter.  Alan Krueger, in his third year, obtained the reputation of having the best eye for an important empirical paper and how to execute it; he learned the most from Larry Summers.  Nouriel Roubini was generally quiet, though he looked all-knowing and at times slightly jaded.

Brad DeLong was a few years older.  He was thought of as the slightly right-wing guy (compared to his peers he was) who read a lot of unusual history of economic thought, including Adam Ferguson.  He and his girlfriend (now wife) were inseparable and always affectionate.

Miles struck me as a mind in perpetual motion, in the best sense of that phrase.  I was not surprised, in 1984, when I heard about his linguistics Master’s thesis, which includes a learned and original discussion of Charles Peirce.  Miles is also a cousin of Mitt Romney, and he will soon blog “Will Mitt’s Mormonism Make Him a Supply-Side Liberal?”.  I wonder what he makes of us all.

Here are his early tweets.

One feature about his blog which is refreshing is that he is neither a libertarian nor a progressive, though he incorporates ideas from both approaches.  My RSS feed is mostly libertarians and progressives, but that is part of the strange selection mechanism of the blogosphere, not a reflection of the economics profession.

Again, Miles’s blog is here and Miles on Twitter is here.  Most of all, he seems to be a great dad, or at least his daughter thinks so.  She too is studying at Harvard, for an MBA.  Here is her project Expert Novice, “Every month or so, I write a letter about what I’ve learned lately.”


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