What Do Economists Contribute?
Economists tend to devote themselves to the technical frontiers of their discipline. That might work in physics, where important new decisions are ... Show synopsis Economists tend to devote themselves to the technical frontiers of their discipline. That might work in physics, where important new decisions are made by experts. But in political economy the important decisions are made, not by experts, but by ordinary public officials and voters. They are innocent of basic economics, and need edification in the basics. This task is neglected, even denigrated, by academic economists. Academic rewards go to refiners on the frontier, even though refinements are often of small relevance to public issues. Great economists of this century - Hayek, Coase, Schelling, Tullock, Kirzner, Graham, Hutt, Philbrook, and McCloskey - address the existential issue for economists: How do we contribute to human betterment? They express their esteem for economic research that is firmly rooted in public issues and that contributes to public discourse. Some suggest that the academic focus on technical refinement not only diverts economists from efforts at public edification, but might even mislead economists in their own understanding of economic affairs.