Sunday, January 18, 2009

Can Economists Be Trusted?

NYTimes | In last week’s post I argued that the analytic structure through which economists behold the world is based on certain quasi-religious beliefs on the rationality of human beings and the efficiency of markets. These beliefs can blind economists to the foibles of the real world.

Matters are worse when, wittingly or unwittingly, economists infuse their analysis with their own (or a political client’s) preferred ideology.[...]

In the first lecture of my freshman economics course at Princeton titled “The Art of Siffing Among Seasoned Adults,” I demonstrate how seasoned adults routinely structure information felicitously (i.e., “sif”) to further their own agenda, and I point out that economists can be among the most skillful practitioners of this art.

“If at the end of this course you still trust me,” I warn them, “I have failed in my mission. When economists advise on public policy, the operative mantra is Caveat Emptor!”

I am sad to teach it, but consider it fair and full disclosure.