March 25, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Jaime Narbon

Jaime Narbon got his start in economics during the 2007 financial crisis. As an undergraduate majoring in finance at Mount St. Mary’s University, he often discussed the crash in class and with his professors, but no one could answer his question: Why did the crash occur?

So, he decided to do some research on alternative explanations. That’s when he came across the Mises-Hayek Theory of the Business Cycle. “When I read it, I just said, this is it. This is the explanation of the financial crisis. From there, I just kept devouring literature and just reading, and I've been hooked since then.”

Jaime’s path through graduate school was not a typical one. He began working at the Bureau of Labor Statistics after graduating with an MBA and a BS in business administration. Yet, he hadn’t forgotten the ideas that had intrigued him during his time as an undergraduate. He wanted to study economics, “specifically the type of economics that is being taught at Mercatus.” Finding a graduate program that offered this type of economics while also allowing Jaime to work full-time as an economist and spend time with his family was no easy task. Fortunately, the Swiss Management Center offered an online program for a master’s in political economy.

To complement that program, Jaime applied to the Mercatus Frédéric Bastiat Fellowship, which he had heard about from his friend and colleague Dr. Robert Graboyes, Senior Research Fellow at Mercatus. “I specifically wanted a program that would further what I was already doing in my Masters of Political Economy. And Mercatus, it just came naturally that that was the option for me,” Jaime says.

Once in the fellowship, Jaime found that “the whole group brought such a diverse set of ideas to the table.” Working alongside students of law and policy as well as of economics lent a rich perspective to the cohort’s discussions. And not only were fellows excited to work with one another, but scholars were eager to work with fellows as well, “to the point where they were almost as excited, or even more excited than the fellows themselves, to be in the colloquium.”

As a fellow, Jaime broadened his interaction with the ideas of political economy that had attracted his attention as an undergraduate. He names the contributions of Hayek, Mises, Kirzner, and Rothbard as instrumental in his research and his understanding of economic ideas. “The work of Mises was eye-opening to me, especially his theory of money and credit when he started developing what is now called the Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle.”

These ideas of political economy have given Jaime what he calls a “human perspective” on economic issues. This perspective gives him “the humility and the knowledge to see problems from a different perspective and to present solutions that might better fit the needs of the people who are affected.” It is the needs of those individual people, and their ability to come up with localized solutions, that drives the way Jaime thinks about economics. 

Today, he works as an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where his office produces and collects data for the Consumer Price Index. Although his day-to-day work does not always expressly incorporate political economy, Jaime says, “the skillset I have learned while being a Bastiat Fellow has made me a more humble person, and it has also made me a better economist overall.”

In the future, Jaime plans to focus on research, potentially through returning to school for his doctorate. Jaime credits the perspective he gained through his time at Mercatus with broadening his knowledge and preparing him for a wealth of different opportunities in the future. “[The Bastiat fellowship] is unique,” he says, because “it also teaches you to value humans and their ability to make a better world.”

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For more information on the Mercatus Frédéric Bastiat Fellowship, and all of the other Mercatus Fellowships offered to graduate students at George Mason University as well as other universities around the world, visit students.mercatus.org.