Sunday, August 05, 2007

Great Post About Economics

Greg Mankiw, one of my favorite bloggers, gets a letter from a doctor in which the doctor makes some great observations of economists and includes some great responses from an economist that doctor knows.

My favorite part:
"Third, the set of advocates who are economists is quite small (I don't know if this reflects treatment or selection). In general, economists are more likely to make up their minds about whether a particular policy works based on theory or data. They may have priors, but not the the sort of "do-gooder"priors that advocates have. One of the reasons that economists are so aggressive with the non-economists is that we want to expose all the priors immediately. In my view, a lot of non-economics social science is straight advocacy. There is an important role for advocacy. It may influence policy more than science. But the nature of advocacy is to simplify and ignore nuance and confounding. But our (economists) beef with advocacy isn't its lack of nuance. We just get really upset when advocacy masquerades as science."
I believe that this gets at the heart of the #1 misconception of economists. Economists do not have some underlying political agenda (a generalization, so there are exceptions, as with anything). Instead, economists are obsessed with data. I especially get upset when people think economists are strictly about maximizing profit. Efficiency, now you've got my ear (and I'll go off on how underrated it is at a later time).

But do read the entire letter, it's interesting.


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