American Economists: Not So Free-Market After All

11 October 2006 at 3:15 pm 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

I’ve blogged previously about Daniel Klein’s work on the political identities and policy views of economists and other academics (here and here). A new paper by Klein and Charlotta Stern surveys American Economic Association members on various policy issues, finding that “about 8 percent of AEA members can be considered supporters of free-market principles, and that less than 3 percent may be called strong supporters. . . . Even the average Republican AEA member is ‘middle-of-the road,’ not free-market.”

Why are economists almost universally perceived as strong supporters of the free market? Klein and Stern offer several conjectures. One is that economists tend to be strong supporters of (international) free trade and at least partial liberalization, making it look like economists support free-market principles more generally. Another is that most academics in the social sciences and humanities are strongly opposed to the free market, making economists look like radical free-marketeers by comparison. Yet another is that most of the strong supporters of the free market (in academia) are economists, leading to the mistaken inference that most economists are strong supporters of the free market.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Classical Liberalism, Recommended Reading.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. brayden  |  11 October 2006 at 3:41 pm

    Another explanation is that economists and people in other disciplines have different different definitions of “free market supporter.” Some of my sociologists friends may argue that a free market supporter is anyone who opposes strong, social democratic policies. Clearly that would not be a definition that most economists (or I) would use.

  • 2. genericface blog » A Noble Nobel Cause  |  11 October 2006 at 9:42 pm

    […] So in light of this it’s important to remind the areas of research where the aforementioned names won their Nobel prize: Kenneth Arrow (with John Hicks) won his for general economic equilibrium and welfare theory; Robert Solow won his for macroeconomic growth theory; the prize was awarded for Lawrence Klein for econometric analysis of economic fluctuations; Joseph Stiglitz (with George Akerlof, and Micheal Spence) won his for asymmetric information; and Clive Granger (with Robert Engle) was awarded the prize for time-series econometrics. None of them are labor economists, however, that still does not disqualify them from making sound policy advice. Besides, it’s not the case that economists always favor purely free market principles. Besides, there is still an empirical debate whether there is or is not a large impact of minimum wages on employment.   […]

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