Monday, October 3, 2011

What Do Economists Contribute?

That is the introduction chapter from Daniel B. Klein in a beautifully collected articles of eminent economists.
In his own words:
  • "The essays gathered here speak of the choices economists make. Which subjects to write on, which premises to follow, which authorities to appeal to, which methods to use, which tones to assume, which audiences to address, which challenges to respond to, which social purposes to serve: all these choices are made each time an economist acts as an economist. Are economists today, in making their individual choices, led to promote ends of human betterment? Most of the present authors suspect that much choosing by economists is not for the better. 
  • Economists are quick to find flaws in markets, governments, and other institutions. Yet they rarely aim their flaw-finding at their own professional institutions (not publicly, anyway). In such matters, their public attitude is rather like their attitude toward their children: acceptance without critical examination. Some economists harbor doubts about normal professional practice and standards, doubts confined to private thought and discreet conversations. A few, such as Arjo Klamer, David Colander, Thomas Mayer, Deirdre McCloskey, and Lawrence Summers express their doubts publicly.
  • The impetus for the present volume stems from the belief that academic institutions are failing and that they take a dim view of certain research activities which do advance the sound practice of political economy. If so, economists might find that pressures to pursue academic work divert them from contributing to the art and science of political economy."

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