You might think that, since this is a design and photography blog, I was an art major in college. And you would be wrong. My college major was economics. (Bachelor of Arts, University of Michigan, 1979.)
It was one of those "on a whim" things. I had an good professor for an intro economics course and decided to change my major from journalism to economics.
It wasn’t long before I had second thoughts about my decision. My childhood interest in the visual arts was crying out for attention, and I just didn’t believe that there was any place for artists in the economics field. I began thinking about transferring to the U-M art school.
But an offhand comment in an Industrial Organization and Performance class persuaded me to stay put. The IOP prof was talking about the boredom he experienced at a recent economics conference. He found that watching the fellow seated next to him was much more interesting. That fellow was Will Baumol, and he was sketching away.
Baumol was, and is, an internationally renowned economist and artist.
Long story short, I didn’t transfer to the art school. I didn’t think my parents would be willing to pay more than four years of college tuition, and, as it turned out, I was right. Dad quit his job and started his own business a few months after I graduated.
In time, I did return to my first love, art, and I now work as a graphic designer and photographer. And, last Friday, all of these things came together in a most unlikely place, the University of Michigan economics department. The department was holding a forum on the state of the economy. (Forecast calls for stormy weather.)
I was there with my camera, and started shooting away as the U-M-trained economists forecasted…
As the forum was happening the U.S. House of Representatives was voting on Bailout 2.0. One of the economists announced that it had passed, and the audience reaction was stunned silence, followed by very little applause. That surprised me, because Ann Arbor audiences can be quite vocal.
The bring-down-the-house line came from one of the economists. He wasn’t in favor of the current push to suspend mark-to-market accounting rules, and that was putting it mildly. Among other not-so-nice things, he said, “If you don’t like the temperature, you don’t break the thermometer!"
Did those fighting words provoke a verbal sparring match between him and the other economists? No. As they did throughout the rest of the forum, those who didn’t have the floor sat quietly and waited their turns to speak…
Meanwhile, the standing-room-only audience paid rapt attention…
On a side note, I had the privilege of meeting Will Baumol this past April. It was good to finally thank him for his indirect role in influencing another econo-artist.