Lawrence H. Summers is an American economist. He is the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University, where he became one of the university's youngest tenured faculty at age 28.
The author of over 150 journal articles, Dr. Summers' wide-ranging contributions to economic research were recognized with the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40. He was also the first social scientist to receive the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award for outstanding scientific achievement.
Beyond his academic career, Dr. Summers has held a number of distinguished appointments in government. He previously served as Director of the National Economic Council for the Obama Administration, Secretary of the Treasury for the Clinton Administration, and Chief Economist of the World Bank.
Lawrence Summers received his S.B. from MIT and his Ph.D. in economics from Harvard. He and his wife Elisa New, a professor of English at Harvard, have six children.
Question: What is your counsel?
Lawrence Summers: We need to save for our future. The country's becoming prosperous. We need to share their prosperity with their citizens and let them spend. That China, for example, consumes less than 40% of its GNP is hardly appropriate.
We need to find the forum that will connect, not a limited set of aging societies dominated by the Atlantic Ocean, but a much wider set of rapidly emerging societies to provide the function of being a kind of global steering committee as we address central global concerns.
We need to find ways in the United States to support a more inclusive democracy and a more inclusive prosperity. If our people are going to be willing to accept the kind of international role that the United States needs to take, if the world is going to remain stable, some of that goes to healthcare; some of that goes to the tax system and much, much else.
We need to forge some kind of international approach to dealing with what are really the existential threats around nuclear weapons, around nuclear proliferation, around global warming – two events that have the chance to profoundly change the terms of life on earth 50 or 100 years from now.
They said before that human nature was eternal, and that the environment and conditions of the environment are now changing very rapidly thanks to science and technology and probably at an accelerating pace.
In many ways the challenge is to bring our public institutions and their capacity to innovate up to speed with the kind of capacity to innovate and change that mark an institution.
Recorded On: June 13, 2007