The Spring 2019 Economics Department Faculty meeting had a gate crashing guest: President George W. Bush! Following up on the Summer 2018 launch of the George W. Bush Institute-SMU Economic growth Initiative [hyperlink to Bush-SMU Initiative page], a new partnership between the policy arm of the George W. Bush Center and the SMU Department of Economics, President Bush wanted to meet the Economics Department faculty.
Unaware of the President’s visit, the faculty were duly shocked and excited. Many faculty commented on the President’s stark openness when answering questions and giving his views on economic and political issues. While President Bush was probably not sure about how his answers and views would be received by a bunch of academics, these academics were, by-and-large, in strong agreement with the President on issues ranging from foreign policy to current U.S. trade policy to U.S. regulatory and anti-trust policy. This probably shouldn’t be surprising given President Bush’s strong commitment to free markets and global openness and the fact that economists wrote the textbook on the virtues of free markets and global openness!
Many of the faculty members were particularly impressed by President Bush’s nuanced position on anti-trust issues and the effects of market concentration and monopolization in certain industries. Even for an academic, they thought these were carefully considered views.
President Bush left a very endearing impression on the faculty. His human touch, shown in ways such as talking to each faculty member individually, was gratefully appreciated and respected. And, his general optimism for the long run health of the country and the world was a breath of fresh air.