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Time to Challenge Convention at the IMF

(Image: CartoonArts International / The New York Times Syndicate)

I suspect that an endorsement from me may be the kiss of death — but, anyway, Stan Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel, really would be the best choice to head the International Monetary Fund.

The obvious disclosure: Mr. Fischer was my teacher and my colleague for many years, so of course I’m not objective. But personal ties aren’t the issue.

The point, instead, is that we’re living in times that require creative, independent thinking. An I.M.F. managing director who serves as the front man or woman for the usual suspects, for conventional wisdom in unconventional times, is not what we need. And that’s what I fear Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, by all accounts an impressive person, but not someone with strong independent judgment on economics, would be. If she is the new managing director, I’ll hope for the best, but I won’t expect it.

Mr. Fischer, by contrast, is both a first-rate economist and someone willing to challenge conventional views; he’s someone who could look at the cautious, conventional advice of committees, see its weak points, and go for real solutions instead.

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I don’t agree with everything he did in his previous tenure as a deputy managing director at the I.M.F. — but he’s been an amazing head of the Bank of Israel, pursuing highly unorthodox policies when necessary, with huge success.

Anyway, that’s my two shekels’ worth.

Pity for the Powerful

Felix Salmon, a blogger at Reuters, read conservative writer Ben Stein’s recent defense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn in The American Spectator on May 17. Better him than me.

In his blog, Mr. Salmon listed the top 10 arguments from Mr. Stein’s online op-ed. Among them: “This is a case about the hatred of the have-nots for the haves, and that’s what it’s all about,” and “Was Riker’s Island really the place to put him on the allegations of one human being? Hadn’t he earned slightly better treatment than that?”

I’m not alone in pointing this out, but Mr. Strauss-Kahn is a man of the sort of left, an internationalist, a surprisingly Keynesian I.M.F. head. On ideological grounds you might have expected Mr. Stein to be gleeful about his troubles.

But it turns out that there’s a kind of class loyalty that trumps even politics: the powerful must be protected. Only the little people get charged with rape.

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Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008.

Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including “The Return of Depression Economics” (2008) and “The Conscience of a Liberal” (2007). Copyright 2011 The New York Times.

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