When the future was as close as the horizon

I was thirty five years old and cried on Salvador´s shoulder, only two years my junior, longing to find a spring of water capable to quench my thirst of good theory. Or even better, a spring of water rich enough to satiate my hunger of belonging to a world dense in ideas worth having and nurturing.

Yes I was only 35 and was taller than today. We all were thirty some and the future was as close as the horizon: unreachable.

Nothing could stop us specially if Louis André, Jean Jacques (both sadly gone) and Alan were behind the project joinig Javier and Carlos (also gone) in Madrid and Xavier in Barcelona.

Mind you the idea was not so much to weave a net connecting institutions other than the ones in the centers of countries like France and Spain, centralized by nature (I mean centalized by Napoleon Bonaparte in both cases). The wish was rather to do good economic theory (and econometrics) in places and institutions where one had to fight to cultivate regular economic theory instead of a decaying continental tradition that, whatever its merits in the past, sounded to us as an starved,outdated and completely dry intelectual endeavour.

«Joinig forces is essential» I shouted, as I said, on Salvador´s shoulder and added «even if it has to include Madrid». As much as I resented the centralism of Madrid as deep in these matters as in any other, I had to recognize that at the time Madrid was as peripherical, if not even more, at least in relative terms, as Aix-Marseille, Barcelona, Bilbao, or Toulouse in terms of the general atmosphear sorrounding our Depatmentes of Economics.

And here came Salvador honouring his name. Ready to invent the first of a series of acronymes he has coined along these years to match, each time, a new institution specially made up to cover the needs of a particular moment.This first acronyme was SEEDS, a wondefull name and quite up to the occasion. Let me add at this point a personal touch. As part of the revolution against what we thought was a rotten tradition, I was doing nothing serious beyond playing Dean but I was not ready to let Salvador carry all the glory so I suggested, I think I remember, the acronyme ASSET to give a name to the south european association supporting SEEDS and able to organize annual meetings the first of which tooke place in Bilbao (following Alan´s launching effort in Marseille), and perhaps so signaling my, at the time hidden, call to join the banking system.

Now for what is my purpose today, which you will soon discover goes beyond conmemorating the 30th annyversary of ASSET, let me recall you that we did what we did at a time when Macro was what Gordon calls now, in the debate over the causes and consecquences of the Big Recession, 1979- macroeconomics and when rational expectations had barely scratched the surface of our theorizing, Muth notwithstanding. It was a time when I taught disequilibrium macroeconomics borrowed fron UCLA, Pascal Benassy in Paris tried to build up the general equlibrium underpinnings of this kind of Macro, Jean Jacques played with disequilibium Maceoeconometrics, Alan put the last nail in the coffin of the representative agent and Barro had not disawoed yet his having ever writen a book with Herschel Grossman on the same trail.

In this field or in any other, making it to the good journals and building up a network of academic friends sharing the same values was the aim of ASSET and SEEDS. And we suceeded as the (early) disapearence of SEEDS witneses. It was’t necessary any more and since then ASSET has grown in range. The original aim should still be there for the benefit of others members of ASSET but communication is now much easier and the European Economic Association, at the time hardly tought of, now thrives making of ASSET a not so necessary associaton. Or is it?

To answer this question let me turn again into an old young and entrepreunerial man and tell you that yes, Economics needs today something we did not know it was ever going to be missed. It needs to get free from path-dependence and lock-in effects mantained by, among other things, the ranking of economists according to citations and inmpact underlying the h o the w indexes ( or any of the improvementes Javier is working on). Not that these indexes are not important for many aims, from recognition to promotion, but to my taste, as I have just said, they are also responsible for the so-called lock-in effect and path-dependence, two characteristics which do not belong to the optimal reseach strategy in exactly the same way privatly funded research fosters a too narrow scope or patents are not the right way to promote innovation. I will not dwell in this last point but I beg you to recognize with me that the professional disregard of the macro story I sketched above is an example of both phenomena. Can ASSET do something about it?

But of course! I tell you what I plan to do in the hope of atracting your cooperation. I will propose to the Urrutia Elejalde Foundation to fund a prize modest in quantity, but infinitly ambicious in desired influence, to be given each year to a particular reseacher working in one of the affiliated departments. This modest prize will be going to the most diversified top quality resercher. That classification has to be worked out but should be something like the following: add up the w index to the number of fields (mesured as three digits in Econlit or Unesco or Jel classification of fields). The researcher who adds up the highest number gets the prize.

Nifty I claim. Hopeless you might think. Not everybody gave a chance to ASSET and look what it has accomplished thirty years later.We will see what happens to my proposed prize. Think a name for it before Salvador finds a nice acronyme. And do it quickly because, after all this time, the horizon looks as if it was here, quite close,