Society and Culture

Economists Should Come Down to Earth

Make more effort to influence policy
Economists should be more willing to educate their fellow men and women in basic economic ideas, says Professor Daniel Klein of Santa Clara University in a new Occasional Paper from the Institute of Economic Affairs*. Too many economists are engaged in abstruse research which is mainly of interest to fellow researchers in the same field: too few are concerned with policy-relevant work which they are willing to explain to the public.

A degree of ‘scholasticism’ is required in economics, to maintain high standards of research and teaching, according to Klein. But the scholastic approach has been carried too far, to the detriment of research and teaching which are relevant to policy. If economists changed their priorities in the way he suggests, they would gain more influence and the quality of decision-making (especially by government) would improve.

Five well-known economists from the United States and Britain comment on Klein’s arguments. John Flemming, Professor Charles Goodhart, Professor Israel Kirzner, Professor Deirdre McCloskey and Professor Gordon Tullock all disagree with Klein on some issues, whilst being generally sympathetic to the case he makes.