Thursday, November 29, 2018

Economic engineers as classical liberals

I received a book in the mail the other day called
Where Economics Went Wrong
Chicago's Abandonment of Classical Liberalism
by David Colander and Craig Freedman

If you just google the title without the subtitle, you find that there's an enormous body of opinion on where Economics went wrong.  But as the publisher states on the book's webpage (linked above) this book is about "How modern economics abandoned classical liberalism and lost its way."

My limited personal experience is that whenever my name appears in this kind of discussion, the authors disapprove of market design, or experiments, or both. So I was relieved to find myself missing from the first chapter, and surprised to find my work described instead in the final chapter, called "The Art and Craft of Economics: The Classical Liberal Attitude," which is organized around a brief set of profiles.

They write (p141) that they can't recommend any specific set of rules to become a good economist, "But what can be provided is a sketch of how we believe applied economics policy analysis should be done, or at least a rough version of that approach.  In this chapter we provide that guidance by sketching out the work of six economists whom we see as exemplifying the Classical Liberal method.  Our methodological suggestion to economists is to emulate them; consider their writings carefully and decide what aspect might apply legitimately to a variety of contexts."

and (p144): "The best way of conveying our conception of what is at least suggestive of a Classical Liberal stance is to present a handful of economists who, in our view, reflect this attitude. We have chosen six economists: Edward Leamer, Ariel Rubinstein, Alvin Roth, Paul Romer, Amartya Sen, and Dani Rodrik. ... We are not singling out any one of their specific practices as a model that should be followed assiduously. Instead, we are suggesting that they provide role models that might fruitfully be emulated by any cohort of young economists."

No comments: