Harvard—Home of Alan Dershowitz—Says the Wealth Tax Economist Is Too Much

Gabriel Zucman was reportedly refused tenure partly because of the "arguments he was making in the political arena."
February 21, 2020, 7:08pm
Gabriel Zucman at desk

Harvard University reportedly refused tenure last year to one of the most influential economists of his generation because of fears that he was too political. The economist, Gabriel Zucman, is the co-author of a recent book that argued that the United States would benefit from a tax on wealth, rather than just income, due to the ever-increasing concentration of financial power at the tippy-top of the economic spectrum.

Zucman and his colleague Emmanuel Saez’s work has made them stars not only in the world of economics, but of politics. Their proposal for a wealth tax has been pushed by two progressive Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Zucman is now an associate professor of economics at University of California, Berkeley.

Here’s how The New York Times reported Zucman’s nixed tenure offer on Friday:

Last year, the faculty at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government voted to offer Mr. Zucman, 33, a tenured position. But Harvard’s president and provost nixed the offer, partly over fears that Mr. Zucman’s research could not support the arguments he was making in the political arena, according to people involved in the process.

For what it’s worth, Harvard also spent a half-century employing one Alan Dershowitz, a man who spent his career defending clients like Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein and has more recently lived inside the Fox News channel (he is now the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus). Dershowitz infamously wrote an op-ed where he likened his Martha’s Vineyard social club snubbing him for defending Trump to “McCarthyism.”

Larry Summers, another Harvard professor and former Harvard president, once suggested that “innate differences in sex may explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers,” as the Times put it in 2005. (He stepped down as president in 2006 in part because of these remarks, but later resumed teaching.)

But it seems that an economist arguing for a wealth tax on Twitter—in a country with soaring inequality—is what really crosses the Harvard line.

As of publication, this was Dershowitz’s most recent tweet:

And this was Zucman’s:

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