Is Economic Failure an Economics Failure?
Economists, widely believed to wield malign influence over economic policymaking, have fallen into disrepute. But does the fault lie with just a few powerful individuals, or is there a deep flaw in the discipline that continuously leads its practitioners astray?
PRINCETON – As 2023 begins, it is clear that an ever-growing number of people hold democratic capitalism in disrepute, and economists along with it. But how much responsibility – and what kind – do economists bear for our economies’ ills?
In 2010, an influential, Oscar-winning documentary portrayed us as scoundrels concerned only with our own financial gain, and as lobbyists and apologists for the rich, who reward us generously for our work. Our pronouncements are often predictable from our politics. Whenever several hundred economists signs a petition in support of some policy, it is only a matter of days before several hundred other economists sign a petition condemning it.
Moreover, we economists often assume a mantle of policy expertise for which we have no qualification, with predictably disastrous outcomes. Even so, thoughtful critics contend that we still retain great influence over economic policy, and thus continue to cause great harm. But does the fault lie with just a few powerful individuals, or is there a deep flaw in economics that continuously leads its practitioners astray?
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