Saturday, August 25, 2012

Professional rot in economics as some 500 economists line up as political hacks

In a must read Bloomberg editorial, Professor Laurence Kotlikoff discusses how the professional rot in economics has transformed the profession into political hacks.

Regular readers know that the Queen of England called into doubt the competence of the profession by asking how if everything was going so well, the economics profession did not see the financial crisis coming.

Professor Kotlikoff provides a possible answer to why the economics profession did not see it coming.  Simply, none are so blind as those whose job depends on their not seeing.

Some 500 of my colleagues in economics, almost all academics, have signed a statement applauding former Governor Mitt Romney’s economic plan and condemning President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy. 
The statement amounts to an endorsement of Romney’s presidential candidacy. As such, it represents a disservice to the economics profession as well as to the statement’s signatories, five of whom are Nobel laureates. 
The 500 signatures including 5 Nobel laureates just shows the scope of intellectual capture that the Financial-Academic-Regulatory Complex (FARC) has managed to achieve in the academic space.
Economics holds itself out as a science, yet here we have supposedly impartial scientists declaring that all of Romney’s proposed economic policies are good and that everything the president has done on the economics front has been misguided and flawed. 
No impartial economist would make such blanket assertions. By their very nature, such statements represent political, not scientific, opinion.  
Yet the signatories not only identified themselves as professional economists; they also specified their university or other institutional affiliations, thereby implicating places such as the University of Chicago in their political pronouncements.... 
Economists on both sides of the political spectrum have long used the credibility of their institutional affiliations as an 'endorsement' of their opinion.
The decision of the 500 U.S. economists, many from the leading ranks of the profession, to trade in their credentials as economists for that of campaign workers is just the latest sign that something’s rotten in economics. 
The documentary “Inside Job,” demonstrated how prominent economists failed to disclose, as standard ethics require, when they are being paid for their professional opinions. 
Please re-read the highlighted text and recall that none are so blind as those whose jobs depend on their not seeing.
Then there is the increasingly nasty op-ed war pursued by political economists, such as Paul Krugman and Glenn Hubbard, who have so closely aligned themselves with one of the two parties that it’s impossible to know where their politics stop and their economic analyses begin. 
The worst part of all this is that the new political economics routinely diverges so far from economic theory and fact....

Economic theory isn’t up for grabs. Economic facts aren’t a matter of choice. And the integrity of the economics profession isn’t free for disposal. The 500 economists owe our profession a sincere apology.

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