Years ago, I was given the opportunity to meet Milton Friedman in person. It had always been a dream of mine and a picture with him would have been something I would have cherished forever. There was only one problem: it would have cost me $10,000. Even at that price, I still considered it. When he died, a year or so later, I look back on the lost opportunity and second guess myself. Maybe I should have just paid it!
Some of my (not so very economically inclined) readers might balk at the idea of an economist charging for his time. But that never really bothered me. Some of these people are so famous and so sought after that if they’d give their time away free they wouldn’t have any time left for anything else. And more importantly, I would have less of a chance of ever actually meeting them. Time is money, and everybody has priorities. If you want your place above certain priorities, it should be mutually beneficial.
In fact, I believe in this so much that I have often suggested it to other economists. For example, in a discussion with a knowledgeable opponent, you may reach a point where you don’t know what to say next. Does the data fit your intuition? Are his points stronger than yours? What does the “mainstream” economist believe? But while you may not have the answer, you are certain someone else would. Only problem is: how do you get it from them? Sure, an email sometimes works. But oftentimes it doesn’t. In the past, I’ve suggested to the more famous bloggers that they should have an “hourly rate” posted somewhere on their blog. A means that guarantees access to them. For example, I would easily pay $100 for an hour of back and forth discussions with, say Scott Sumners. Or Tyler Cowen. Or especially Bryan Caplan. Even Paul Krugman, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein would be on my list (sometimes you want to know what the real, thought out, opposing view is). But alas, they don’t have that option – so most emails go unmet.
Lucky for us though, many famous free-market economists have already thought about this idea and made it public. Bloomberg reports:
Becker, a University of Chicago professor who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1992, will be selling his time on ExpertInsight.com, a website offering one-to-one video chats with leaders, which opened yesterday. He’ll join people such as economics professors Jeffrey Miron of Harvard University and Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University, “Freakonomics” co- authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, poker celebrities Patrik Antonius and Tom Dwan, and tennis coach Jeff Salzenstein.
“The idea is to bring this coaching model to everything,” said Brandon Adams, Expert Insight’s 32-year-old founder and chief executive officer.
I think this is a great idea and hope it becomes the norm. This is a great step in the path towards a smarter and more knowledgeable citizenry. I’m excited!