Economics and ideology

Posted: 29 January 2013 in Uncategorized
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They try so hard, don’t they, to demonstrate that economics is a science—and that economists aren’t driven by politics?

The latest is Dylan Matthews, writing about the same paper by Roger Gordon and Gordon B. Dahl. But then, after concluding that disagreements among economists are not driven by politics, Matthews undoes the entire argument:

One shouldn’t read too much into this. The Booth surveys, while surveying both apparent liberals and apparent conservatives, omit people on the true fringes of both sides. There aren’t any Marxists or post-Keynesians on the left, and there aren’t any Austrians or ultra-libertarians on the right. The survey’s left flank is Emmanuel Saez (who supports very high taxes on the rich but is basically a social democrat) and its right flank is Robert Hall (who invented the flat tax, which, while radical in its way, has a lot of real supporters in American politics). But the study does confirm that the economics profession has a coherent mainstream consensus, with many shared beliefs about the subject, a consensus that holds across party and ideological lines.

Indeed! There is general agreement within the mainstream consensus because the discipline of economics has a mainstream consensus (whether or not it is “coherent” is another story). It’s that consensus that serves as the basis for surveys of mainstream economists and the content of mainstream economics textbooks and hiring in mainstream departments and publications in mainstream journals and research funding by mainstream agencies and. . .Well, you get the picture.

It’s a consensus marked by neoclassical and Keynesian economics, whose practitioners still battle over the specific meaning of that consensus—and exclude everyone else. My own view, for what it’s worth is not that economists’ political positions determine, in any simple fashion, their economic theories and approaches. The lines of causality run in both directions.

Richard Wolff, to my mind, put it best: we choose economic paradigms—and, at the same time, economic paradigms choose us.

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