The A..hole Factor in Economics
| Nicolai Foss |
I may be entirely mistaken, but my personal and admittedly casual observations after working in academia since 1989 seem to point toward something like the following approximate generalizations: “Orthodox” (or “mainstream”) economists and finance scholars are — I stress: as a crude approximation — reserved, not very wordy, introverted, but still direct (bordering on brutal, particularly in seminars). They are spiteful of “softies.” On the other hand, “heterodox” (“non-mainstream”) economists (including many management scholars) are generally more extroverted, easier to get along with, and less direct/brutal. However, they are as spiteful of mainstream economics as mainstream economists are of the soft stuff (Marxist economists are, however, a lot like mainstream economists). Again, this is just a tendency; there are many, many counter-examples. Am I right? Or just biased (e.g., by hanging out with too many heterodox types)?
Supposing I am right, what may cause this pattern? Is the perhaps (somewhat) nicer behavior of “soft” economists caused by feelings of inferiority, real or imagined (virtually all heterodox economists secretly admire a fine orthodox symbol manipulator!) which cause them to not stick out their necks too much? Or is there something inherent in ortodox and heterodox economics that attracts different personality types?
I suppose this is researchable. To generate dependent variables, let orthodox and heterodox economists do Bob Sutton’s test. Then let them answer questions such as, “Economics pay too little attention to the market process,” “Surplus value is a useful category for analytical economics,” “Since genuine uncertainty is pervasive all investment decisions are fundamentally irrational ,” etc. (using Likert scales). Construct measures of orthodoxy/heterodoxy based on these to obtain independent variables (it may be necessary to partition the sample, at least with respect to the heterodox types). Then do the regression thing.