KC Fed Annual Meeting in Jackson Hole: TED for Economists?

I’m watching with some amusement the current unhappiness over the changed invitation list to the annual Kansas City Federal Reserve economic symposium in Jackson Hole. In an effort to introduce some diversity, the KC Fed has not included some longtime attendees, added some new ones, and generally upset people who were used to hanging with Ben, Larry, et al., at the nexus of economic power this time every year in Jackson Hole.

The Kansas City Fed has scratched top staffers from the 12 regional Fed banks to make room in the conference meeting room at the bucolic Jackson Lake Lodge, which seats a little more than 100 people. Keeping the meeting intimate has meant saying no to some notables, including Brian Sack, who runs the New York Fed’s markets group and has played a key role strategizing with top officials on the Fed’s unconventional policies. Research directors from most of the 12 regional banks also are out.

Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius didn’t get an invitation this year. Nor did Laurence Meyer, a former Fed governor and current vice chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers LLC, which advises big investors on Fed policy. Mr. Meyer said he’d miss the chance to “socialize with friends.” Mr. Hatzius couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Newcomers include Ardian Fullani, governor of the central bank of Albania, Grigori Marchenko, governor of Kazakhstan’s central bank, and Haroutioun Samuelian, the Central Bank of Lebanon’s vice governor. There is still a Wall Street contingent on hand, which includes Richard Berner, Morgan Stanley’s top economist, Mickey Levy, of Bank of America, Dino Kos, the New York Fed’s former markets chief who is now a managing director at the investment frirm Portales Partners LLC, and a few others.

There is even more gnashing of teeth behind the scenes than is obvious from people not offering comment on being uninvited. It struck me, however, what this reminded me of: TED. It is an example of how creating a semi-exclusive event wherein your presence denotes prestige and importance becomes a circular thing, with people excited at being invited, pissed at being unable to go, or just plain irritated that such things exist.

Granted, the TED metaphor only goes so far. There are no performers, unless you count Bernanke singing and dancing on monetary policy, and I doubt that there will be sneak visits to local movie studios. But the agenda does usually include high-tone outdoor events, including the usual Hike with Ben.

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