In the first of our new series of posts by members of the faculty, Michael Klein, William L. Clayton Professor of International Economic Affairs, tells us about his experience at the U.S. Treasury and how it has shaped his teaching and scholarship since he returned. Prof. Klein currently teaches International Finance, International Economic Policy Analysis, Finance, Growth and Business Cycles, and Quantitative Methods.
In March 2010 I received, completely by surprise, an email from the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Treasury asking me whether I would be interested in serving as Chief Economist in the Office of International Affairs. This was a novel opportunity for me. I had served as a visiting scholar at a number of institutions (the International Monetary Fund, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, and the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston, New York, and San Francisco), but had spent my entire career in academia. I was excited by the prospect of using the skills and knowledge that I have developed through teaching and scholarship in a government position. I was also curious to see how policy was developed and executed. And, not inconsequentially, I was happy and proud to serve my country.
The eighteen months that I spent at Treasury were a very exciting time; it was a period during which there was a halting recovery from the Great Recession in the United States, a re-evaluation of the international monetary system (especially with regards to the use of capital controls), an on-going crisis in the euro-area, and international tensions over exchange rates (during this time, the Finance Minister of Brazil declared that the United States was engaged in “currency wars” and there was continuing controversy about the renminbi/dollar exchange rate). I analyzed these issues, as well as many others, writing memos that drew on my research and teaching experience. I also participated in high-level meetings with officials from other countries. My time at Treasury was one of the high marks of my professional career.
Since returning to Fletcher in the autumn of 2012, I have been able to draw on my experiences at Treasury in a variety of ways. I developed a new course, International Economic Policy Analysis, which teaches students to use economics and statistical skills and frameworks in a practical policy setting. My teaching in two other courses, International Finance and Finance, Growth and Business Cycles, has been enriched by my interaction with policy and experiences in government. And the trajectory of my research was also influenced by my time at Treasury; over the past two years, I have focused on the topic of capital controls, a subject that I became interested in while working in Washington. My research on this topic now includes a 2012 article for the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, another article that was presented at the IMF’s Annual Research Conference in November 2013 and will be published in the IMF’s flagship research journal, and a third that is currently under review.
Like other Fletcher faculty members, I am able to draw on scholarship as well as policy experience to provide students with an education that is both deeply informed by theory and scholarship and well-grounded in practical, real-world experience and concerns.