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  1. Economic Enlightenment in Relation to College-going, Ideology, and Other Variables: A Zogby Survey of Americans

    • Gee, I wonder why this survey didn’t ask question about things like monopsony, the money multiplier effect of government spending, the free ride problem with public goods, natural monopolies, positive and negative externalities, etc. It is almost like the questions were cherry picked to get conservatives to do better than liberals! Was this funded by some right wing think tank?

    • 6 comments
    • First comment 10 Jun 2010 by N. Joseph Potts
    • Last comment 16 Nov 2015 by wargames83
  2. Adam Smith, the Last of the Former Virtue Ethicists

    • This sharp polemic from Deirdre McCloskey seeks nothing less than a revolution in our ethical thinking. Her interpretation of Smith’s own ethical views, persuasive in itself, is more importantly a springboard for her own. Smith, McCloskey argues, would have rejected the default ethical position of modern economics – “prudence-only” or “Max U”, where value commitments are mere tastes and the only conversations that make sense between people are those gunning for a Pareto improvement. Nor is modern economics the only discipline to measure “what is moral” solely on one dimension: Kant focused on justice (duty) and some modern theologians solely on altruistic love. McCloskey rejects all such reductionist systems as unsuited to the complexity of human life.

      By contrast, Smith was an exponent of “virtue ethics”, an ancient approach grounded in Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas that McCloskey also describes as “virtue pluralism.” Instead of a single yardstick for goodness – such as utility for Bentham – most Western thinkers up to the eighteenth century would have guided themselves by the “pagan” or cardinal virtues of justice, prudence, courage and temperance as well as the “theological” virtues of faith, hope, and love. No ethical numeraire reduces the virtues to a a common yardstick; ethical deliberation, for individuals and society, becomes an open-ended process of discussion and debate when it is more useful to call an action “intemperate” or “prudent” than merely “morally wrong.”

      The claim in the article most likely to grate on many readers is that human beings need “transcendence,” the qualities associated with hope and faith (though not, in McCloskey’s view, the exclusive domain of religion). She rightly warns us that transcendent commitments have a way of creeping back into individuals and societies even if they outwardly banish God: Science, Nature, or the pursuit of wealth will perhaps fill the void, or worse the darker forces of nationalism and socialism. For individuals to find the needed – and socially healthy – sources of transcendence is a rather large problem that McCloskey no more than nods to, although arguably she did her duty just by pointing it out. How is a secular, liberal, multiracial society to match the passion of ethnic and religious chauvinism? In the contemporary world illiberal forces often seem more passionate than the defenders of pluralist tolerance. The deficit doesn’t seem to be made up by mild associations like McCloskey’s own “progressive Episcopalianism,” admirable though they otherwise are.

      I think that words from Smith himself suggest a solution, if we keep in mind McCloskey’s definition of hope as having “a human project.” In his discussion of Colbert in the Wealth of Nations, Smith places the ur-mercantilist in tension with “the liberal plan of equality, liberty and justice”. By replacing “plan” with “project,” we create an open-ended agenda accessible to all citizens committed to the liberal polity. Suitably re-energized, and in conjunction with the ‘little platoons’ of society, that ought to provide enough transcendence for a lifetime – as it did for Adam Smith himself.

    • 6 comments
    • First comment 22 Sep 2010 by Steve Kunath
    • Last comment 14 Nov 2012 by Todd Peckarsky
  3. Mankiw vs. DeLong and Krugman on the CEA’s Real GDP Forecasts in Early 2009: What Might a Time Series Econometrician Have Said?

  4. Religion, Heuristics, and Intergenerational Risk Management

    • I found this to be a stimulating and useful article. However I find two major shortcomings. Firstly it could provide more substance to illustrate various religious taboos. Secondly it could examine beyond hard religion and look at social taboos/ tabus as projected by groups less formally spiritually aligned.
      I am partial to the perspective shared by Harari in his recent book “Sapiens” (and before that by others) that like most human concepts and beliefs, religions are simply self-serving myths that either evolved or were constructed for various reasons – control and power, security, resilience, etc. Most of the mainstream, monotheistic religions – which the authors focus most closely on – arose out of various distillations of incorporated belief systems. For instance the Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity incorporated various beliefs and myths from other sources, as reflected by various branches of those religions. For instance Catholics consume fish on Fridays but Protestants are less likely to. Alligator is considered a fish by New Orleans Catholics, reflecting one of many local belief systems. These various belief systems are largely reflected by the various sects of the Abrahamic (and other) religions.

      What is interesting for me, as a scholar of food, agriculture and diet, are the prohibitions, which can also be expressed as taboos in other non-Abrahamic cultural / spiritual beliefs, on consumption of various varieties of food, or the mixing of various foods.

      This is particularly strong in the Jewish Kosher tradition, around shellfish, mixing of milk products with meats, consumption of pork and so on.

      This prohibition is echoed in the Islamic fatwa against the consumption of pork as haraam (forbidden). If we consider why these particular foodstuffs have been forbidden, we can propose that there are good reasons for doing so. Pigs have long been considered dirty, although this is largely a condition of their domestication and scavenging nature. Imagine also, in the Middle East, pork would have been more likely to spoil, given the associated pathogens from its living in close association with humans, exacerbated by the hot climate.

      Further, as scavengers pigs are prone to infection by various helminths (worms) such as tapeworm and roundworm, which are readily passed onto those who consume their meat, weakening and often killing people if not treated.

      It is also interesting to consider the fact that pork, is said to be closest to human flesh (in Polynesia humans were called “long pig”) when cooked and consumed, so a further, obvious reason for taboo can be postulated.

      Considering shellfish, why would these be forbidden? Look no further than dinoflagellate toxins (caused by so called red tides, a fairly common global event) that can cause paralysis and death – and are impossible to detect without modern laboratory equipment. Shellfish are also readily prone to spoilage if not kept properly without refrigeration. Crustacea such as crayfish, lobster and prawns are bottom feeders, literally and scientifically, consuming detritus at the bottom of the food chain. Crayfish and lobster, for instance are noted to congregate around sewer outfalls and are also prone to rapid spoilage.

      Cholera outbreaks are associated with the consumption of raw shellfish, particularly in Peru, Chile and Ecuador (ceviche, etc.) where this is a common practice. So again, using religion to reinforce this absolute interdict, followers are protected and are more likely to survive than those who do not follow that religious belief. This provides an evolutionary as well as an economic advantage. Because the population will be less prone to infections, plagues or parasites, it is less likely to be unwell and able to be economically productive and to be able to contribute to the community, the church, the faith, etc. Therefore an evolutionary advantage emerges from such an interdict, providing increased resilience or a tendency to reinforce antifragility in individuals, in communities and in religions, benefiting all who subscribe to these interdicts. So while the religion may be based on a myth, the related interdicts and taboos reinforce the power of those who have logically and experientially curated and evolved the heuristics to improve on the lot of those who follow these shared belief systems. Those on the margins or those cast out or rejecting such systems would become prone to genetic and economic erosion and extinction.

      I thought I would share these considerations with the authors as I believe they provide some useful practical examples of application of the sort of heuristics, expressed as a religious taboo or interdict, able to confer practical and real social advantages. Given the nature of this forum I don’t really want to go much further beside say that these examples can be extended to other foods, seeds, poison fruits, mixing of dairy and other foods, ways of food storage and treatment, etc. that have bearing on the how risk and religion are managed and analysed.

    • 5 comments
    • First comment 30 May 2014 by Tom Garnett
    • Last comment 15 Aug 2015 by G. Ashton
  5. Advanced Placement Economics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    • Excellent article. I concur with Paul Johnson. Very sad that AP Economics includes so little real economics and so much of the bogus mechanistic/mathematical type.

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 25 Jan 2011 by Paul Johnson
    • Last comment 16 Mar 2011 by David B
  6. The Ideological Profile of Harvard University Press: Categorizing 494 Books Published 2000-2010

    • Quick question about cause and effect… I’m sympathetic to the argument here, and the social psychology literature demonstrates, quite well, that we read things more critically when they run counter to our own ideological perspectives, so clearly conservative books would have a more difficult time in the peer review process. However, I’m wondering if Harvard could defend its publication list by arguing that the number of conservative books published is actually proportional to the number of conservatives in academia. I’m noticing, for example, that some of the numbers here seem to mirror data about the number of conservatives in each discipline. So if field X is comprised of 10% conservatives, and 10% of HUP’s publications in that field fall right of center, couldn’t they argue that conservatives have the same chance of being published as liberals? Is there any way to see a sample of submissions and or rejections?
      April Kelly-Woessner

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 24 Jan 2011 by Hal Luft
    • Last comment 16 Feb 2011 by Milo Schield
  7. The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns

    • Constant provides an enlightening look at the concept of liberty in ancient western civilizations. For the ancients, liberty came through collective and direct participation in the polity. Life was affirmed through the polity: the alternative was to live as a barbarian. Freedom came collectively and was a privilege that could be taken away by the polity. Constant doesn’t mention that in some way such privileged liberty is similar to that of the towns and burghs that developed during the Medieval period, where citizens faced returning to manor life should they not temper themselves to the rules of the city (to be sure, the liberty that emerged in Medieval burghs resembled more closely individual modern liberty).

      Constant delivered his lecture in 1819, but his insistence on affirming that modern liberty is individual – as opposed to the collectivized liberty of the ancients – is as important today as it was then. He criticizes Rousseau , de Mably, and Montesquieu for conflating ancient and modern liberty in an attempt to assert the power of the state – and those at its helm. Still today – though perhaps without reference to ancient philosophy – illiberal thinkers assert that liberty comes through the state and is not held individually. In a very nice small section on commerce, Constant talks about ‘owning’ being merely a use-right to a piece of land; something we see today in the bundle theory of rights.

      He ends with a beautiful call for institutions to carry out the moral education of their citizens, not by forcing upon them some interpretation of morality, but by respecting their individual rights and creating proper incentives for moral behavior and civic participation. He mentions institutions in the context of the work of the legislature, but doesn’t say explicitly that all such institutions must come from the state, leaving one to think he refers not only to institutions of government but also those created by the culture and the market.

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 15 Apr 2011 by Ariel Nerbovig
    • Last comment 06 May 2011 by Stephanie Myla Helmick
  8. Entrepreneurship and Islam: An Overview

    • Clearly, not being able to borrow capital has a tremendous negative direct effect on entrepreneurship, since it will severely constrain the size of new ventures, no matter how many people would like to be entrepreneurs. I wonder if indirectly it could help. Without mortgages, income that would go to payments of principle and home ownership would be saved (partly at least) and be available as capital for profit-making ventures. Has anyone studied this effect?

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 31 May 2014 by Eric Rasmusen
    • Last comment 03 Jun 2014 by Nathan W
  9. Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology

    • Sean T. Stevens, in preparing a blog post for Heterodox Academy about the Langbert, Quain, and Klein article in EJW, scrutinized the article and caught a problem, and then kindly sent us a query about it.

      Sean noticed that in footnote 5 (p. 424) we list University of Florida and University of Miami as among those universities that, though ranked high enough by U.S. News to be included in our investigation, were not included because they sit in states not covered by Aristotle (the database used for the study).

      But Sean noticed that in footnote 4 (p. 423), listing the states not included in Aristotle, Florida is not listed. In fact, Florida is covered by Aristotle. In fact, those two Florida universities should have been included in our investigation.

      To rectify the problem, we need to investigate the two universities that have been mistakenly left out of our analysis, which covered 40 universities. Although our subscription to Aristotle had expired, Aristotle has generously restored to us temporary access, to rectify the problem. We are proceeding now and will report back on the findings; look for a notice here at EJW News.

      We are grateful to Sean for catching our error and bringing it to our attention!

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 02 Oct 2016 by John Quiggin
    • Last comment 17 Oct 2017 by Mitchell_Langbert
  10. Preference Falsification in the Economics Profession

    • Preference falsification is equivalent to the term “pluralistic ignorance” used in social psychology. There have been a number of studies that have isolated this phenomenon (e.g., public versus private views of drinking habits on college campuses in Prentice and Miller 1993) and suggestions regarding how to alleviate it. For example, Halbesleben et al. (2005) conducted a study on business school students. Previously, it was observed that private views on ethical conduct in business diverged significantly from public views. In general, everyone wanted to be more ethical, but believed everyone else would behave unethically. The researchers administered ethics surveys several times during a semester to students in two classes. The surveys required students to indicate what they would do given a particular situation and what they thought others would do in that situation. In one of the classes, the lecturers spent one session teaching pluralistic ignorance, although not linking this lesson to the surveys or business ethics in general. The researchers found that, in business settings, the class receiving the pluralistic ignorance lesson reduced pluralistic ignorance on the ethics surveys and responded more ethically to surveys.

      This study provides reason for optimism for the economics profession. Merely educating students about the phenomenon of pluralistic ignorance (or preference falsification) reduces the phenomenon somewhat. The researchers did not even link the concept of pluralistic ignorance with the ethics surveys. Surely, educating economists on pluralistic ignorance and presenting results of studies similar to Davis’s should greatly reduce pluralistic ignorance in the economics profession. Moreover, one would suspect that the Internet, a medium that strongly promotes the exchange of ideas and internal viewpoints, would also alleviate the “ignorance” of the majority viewpoint. Davis describes that pluralistic ignorance can perpetuate social undesirable practices, but then “can suddenly, and dramatically change” those practices. Perhaps, the economics profession will soon undergo such a change.

      References
      Halbesleben, R. B., A. R. Wheeler, and M. R. Buckley (2005). “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? Pluralistic Ignorance and Business Ethics Education.” Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 56, No. 4, pgs. 385-398.
      Prentice, D. A. and D. T. Miller (1993). “Pluralistic Ignorance and Alcohol Use on Campus: Some Consequences of Misperceiving the Social Norm.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 64, No. 2, pgs. 243–256.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 21 Apr 2010 by Jon Goldstein
    • Last comment 22 Apr 2010 by Shawn Reed
  11. A Life among the Econ, Particularly at UCLA

    • A wonderful remembrance! Although not a major in Economics, I had Alchian for Econ 101 (for non-econ majors?) in the mid 1950s, and a year or two later, a grad seminar with Allen (and someone else) on Internat’l Econ Development. Also, had Hildebrand for K. Marx econ. With the help of Prof Allen’s retrospective, I am now inclined to even greater appreciation than at the time—-partly for their inculcation of an economic perspective but mostly for their character.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 08 Sep 2010 by morrie goldman
    • Last comment 17 May 2011 by josil
  12. Individualism: True and False

    • Hayek does well to remind people of the true definition of individualism in his opening chapter. Many assume the common meaning of terms and concepts such as “individualism” without evaluating the meaning of the term or concept as it was used in a past age. However, Hayek does not seem to dive deep into the Bible to understand its methods or how they were supposed to work. He assumes that history has proven that biblical methods of economics do not work. He does acknowledge the usefulness of biblical principles, but does not see biblical methods as legitimate. Maybe the reason biblical methods have not worked is because governments and nations refuse to implement certain practices? Hayek does not take time to wonder what would happen if a Year of Jubilee was practiced. Finally, Hayek does not address biblical assumptions about man and how he works either. Men’s hearts are corrupt according to the Bible. Hence, greed and usury is prevalent. Hayek does a wonderful job of defining individualism, but makes too many assumptions about how the Bible should be used in regards to an economic system.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 22 Sep 2010 by Tony Quain
    • Last comment 10 May 2013 by Matt
  13. "The Two Faces of Adam Smith"

    • The Adam Smith Problem has beset philosophers and economists since the time of the man who is its source. What is the best way to integrate the insights of the Wealth of Nations with the ethical theory of the Theory of Moral Sentiments? While consensus has not yet been reached authors still try to resolve the tension. Vernon Smith, the father of experimental economics, attempted to resolve the problem by making an appeal to Adam Smith’s description of the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange.

      The propensity that Vernon Smith points to is certainly a component of Adam’s system, but in attempting to resolve the Adam Smith Problem by simply highlighting this propensity seems to ask forces other questions into focus. Assuming that Adam Smith had a singular vision of human nature in some sense, where does the individual’s propensity to exchange emerge? According to David Hume reason is a slave to the passions, which Adam Smith would have been familiar with as it affected the development of his own moral theory. Here a problem arises, if the propensity to exchange is simply the result of an innate principle of action, as Vernon Smith implies, then one needs to determine if this action falls under ethical scrutiny or not. If Adam Smith does not consider natural and uncontrolled actions of the individual, e.g. sneezing, twitching, worthy of ethical consideration as they fall outside of the realm of the individual’s control and thereby are incapable of being done in sympathy with the Impartial Spectator, then how does one square a natural principle with ethical analysis? Perhaps if Vernon Smith had described the propensity to exchange as some type of irreducible good then we could see that it could then serve as a reason for action that would first be described by and ethical system, i.e. it would be fitting to discuss in the Theory of Moral Sentiments, and then followed by sound advice on instantiating the good in ones affairs, i.e. the Wealth of Nations would give advice on making it a reality. The point of all this is to say that while Vernon Smith seems to be making a contribution to solving the Adam Smith Question, we are left with further questions that need to be answered.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 25 Apr 2011 by Echo Keif
    • Last comment 06 May 2011 by Steve Kunath
  14. Economic Enlightenment Revisited: New Results Again Find Little Relationship Between Education and Economic Enlightenment but Vitiate Prior Evidence of the Left Being Worse

    • People believing firmly in free market and voluntary exchange efficiency (just missed some fluctuations in Q.16 and negative externalities in Q17) are wrong and “Unenlightened”.
      People believing after USSR economy TOTAL failure and China transition to market economy that voluntary transactions are inefficient and only Gosplan could succeed to organize it are right and enlightened? Are you sure Q16-17 really helpful?
      BTW, conservatives actually able to count negative externalities.
      Q14: say Farmer A hired 5 immigrants from the country w/o tradition to respect property and human life, dignity etc. Let Farmer A saved for a Seazon $100K his costs (taxation, salary) and shared part of $100K among his product consumers. So, public wealth increased $100K. OK, now, close to the end of the Seazon (game almost over, last move of the gamer could be very unpleasant) this immigrant workers grabbed and killed farmer B and raped farmers’ C daughter and escaped to Mexico.
      Public losses counted say $5 million at least. So, conservatives actually count negative externalities, some libertarians so stubbornly ignore (Caplan vs. Friedman):
      http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2008/06/milton_friedman_10.html

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 17 May 2011 by rihir akidan
    • Last comment 28 Apr 2012 by Moshe
  15. The Invisible Hand of Jupiter

    • The main point of Macfie’s article, The Invisible Hand of Jupiter (1971), is to analyze, and attempt to reconcile, Smith’s various uses of the famous, yet mysterious, “invisible hand” metaphor throughout his work.

      The original use of the invisible hand is in Smith’s History of Astronomy, an early essay written by Smith, which was published posthumously. In History of Astronomy, the invisible hand belongs to the Roman god Jupiter, and is used by polytheistic “savages” to explain seemingly irregular natural phenomena that interrupt the status quo (e.g., lightning, thunder). In The Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS) and Wealth of Nations (WN), the invisible hand, assumed by Macfie, among others, to belong to the Christian Deity, is a mechanism of coordination that guides people’s self-love in order to achieve universal benevolence.

      While the uses of the invisible hand seem contradictory, Macfie contends they are not. He suggests that the use of the invisible hand in History of Astronomy was merely where Smith first coined the phrase, and has no significant bearing on its later use in TMS and WN. Macfie interprets the invisible hand metaphor in TMS and WN to be Smith’s attempt to express “his own view as to the relation between divine guidance, the system of nature, and human behavior”, accordingly becoming the energizer of his entire system of thought (pp.598-99).

      While Macfie’s interpretation may be plausible, there is another way to interpret Smith’s use of his famous metaphor. I believe that Smith used the invisible hand metaphor when talking about things beyond human understanding. In History of Astronomy, the savage ascribes lighting, a natural occurrence that he cannot understand, to the mood swings, and invisible hand of Jupiter. In TMS/WN, Smith employs the same invisible hand metaphor when he talks about markets; in doing so, he suggests that people cannot understand why order emerges spontaneously when people pursue their own ends in free markets, but can merely observe that it does. Perhaps this emergent order in markets can be attributed to a benevolent Deity, but, if the use of the metaphor is consistent with its use in History of Astronomy, Smith argues that the cause of this order is outside the realm of human understanding. With this interpretation of the invisible hand, Smith’s seemingly contradictory uses of the metaphor can indeed be reconciled.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 15 Oct 2011 by Pavel Kuchař
    • Last comment 15 Nov 2012 by Francis Conlon
  16. Can ‘Religion’ Enrich ‘Economics’?

    • Religion may not provide us with analytical tools designed for “sciences”, but it may tell us a lot about the ends to which economic analysis are applied.

      For example, some religious perspectives are easily applied to say that the goal is to maximize bounty, whereas others could say it is to care for the earth, or to provide for the poor and vulnerable. In these senses, I think it is worth asking what direction economic analysis may take from the wise words passed down through religious communities over the ages.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 30 May 2014 by Eric Rasmusen
    • Last comment 10 Jun 2014 by Nathan W
  17. Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data

    • In his 2002 book, Calculated Risks, Gerd Gigerenzer addresses the muddy headed thinking that results from innumeracy and illustrates with telling anecdotes. This (p. 210) is one of my favorites:

      In the late 1970s, the Mexican government faced the problem of how to increase the capacity of the Viaducto, a four-lane motorway. Rather than building a new highway or extending the existing one, the government implemented a clever, inexpensive solution: It had the lines on the four-lane highway repainted to make it six-lanes wide. Increasing the number of lanes from four to six meant a 50 percent increase in capacity. Unfortunately, the much narrower lanes also resulted in an increase in traffic fatalities, which, after a year, forced the government to turn the highway back into a four-lane road. Reducing the number of lanes from six to four mean a 33 percent decrease in capacity. In an effort at touting its progress in improving the country’s infrastructure, the government subtracted the decrease from the increase and reported that its actions had increased the capacity of the road by 17 percent.

      As amusing as it is to chuckle over the transparent flimflammery of the Mexican government, it is considerably more distressing to see one’s fellow economists taken in by the same fallacy. This is precisely what is happening in John Humphreys’ recent publication in Econ Journal Watch, “Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data.” Suppose for the sake of illustration that male college graduates earn $4000 a year in Cambodia, high school graduates earn $2000 a year, and someone entirely uneducated earns $1000 a year. These numbers, it should be clear, are picked for ease of exposition, not for accuracy. Using the usual formula for percentage changes, one would say that university graduates earn 100% more than high school graduates ((400-200)/200 = 1). It would be fallacious to say that college graduates earn 300% ((400-100)/100 =3) more than the uneducated, and high school graduates earn 100% more than the uneducated ((200-100)/100) = 1), so that college graduates earn 200% (300% – 100%) more than high school graduates, yet this is precisely what Mr. Humphrey’s technique does. He computes a percentage premium of college graduates over the base category, and then subtracts a percentage premium of high school graduates over the same base category.
      References:

      Gigerenzer, Gerd. (2002). Calculated Risks. New York: Simon & Schuster.

      Humphreys, John (2015). “Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data,” Econ Journal Watch, 12 (3), pp. 339-45.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 30 Sep 2015 by Ronald Michener
    • Last comment 30 Oct 2015 by Ronald Michener
  18. Ideology Über Alles? Economics Bloggers on Uber, Lyft, and Other Transportation Network Companies

    • Hmmm. I entirely agree with the premise of this article: Uber is obviously an economic improvement and all efforts of the incumbent cartel to stymie it should be resisted. Admirably, all of the economists polled, regardless of political orientation, agreed. And indeed it would be nice if some of the more progressive of them spoke up about this. And any article taking Krugman’s ideological blinders to task is worth reading.

      But all that said, it seems that faulting left-leaning economists for remaining silent about Uber on their blogs just goes too far. Maybe they are afraid of ideological reprisal and so keep quiet. That would be shameful.

      But maybe they just feel that they have nothing particularly important to add to the economist consensus on Uber? That seems quite possible. For among the silent, are such as David Friedman, Greg Mankiw, Robin Hanson, and Steven Landsburg.

      Would anybody suspect any of these of being afraid of left-wing political reprisals for as anodyne a policy as supporting Uber? Any of their readers can see them voluntarily waving much bigger red flags at Progressive bulls on a frequent basis.

      In fact, their silence is some evidence that they just agree with the pro-Uber consensus. For any of these worthies had convinced himself that for some curious, clever reason Uber was the rare example where they oppose liberalized markets, they would have been sure to blog about it.

      So, if we can attribute the silence of “conservative” econ bloggers to blameless reasons, why not give those on the other side the same courtesy?

      That said, influential progressive Econ bloggers should be particularly encouraged to voice their support for Uber, even they have nothing novel or clever to add. A few such posts would do a great deal more for the common cause, than a hundred eloquent posts by econ bloggers on the other side of the spectrum preaching to the choir.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 30 Sep 2015 by Michael Maloney
    • Last comment 24 Oct 2015 by Carl Edman
  19. The Social Science Citation Index: A Black Box—with an Ideological Bias?

    • After a Google keyword search of “Commentary Magazine” and “Social Science Citation Index,” I found this article and was introduced to EJW. The bias Klein and Chiang illuminate, exists not only in the slant of the SSCI journals which make and break careers, but also the themes and questions addressed at major conferences and their panels. (Just take a look at the CfP for next year’s APSA annual.) Now finishing up a PhD and finding the same problem on the job market, the research backgrounds often asked for (my area is IR/ IPE) also come from left field. Rather than become disheartened, this state of affairs increases my resolve to follow and intelligently express my conservative convictions in the face of single minded institutionalized opposition. I love a good fight and know the truth will prevail. I’d rather be right than loved, although it would be nice to be both.

    • 2 comments
    • First comment 01 Nov 2011 by Alex Littlefield
    • Last comment 11 Feb 2013 by Alex Littlefield
  20. Adam Smith and Conservative Economics

    • Here Emma Rothschild examines the various schools of interpretation of Adam Smith’s works that emerged shortly after his death. Specifically, she looks at three incidents where Smith’s ideas were used to support a particular policy or school of thought. Starting with the idea that Smith was, at least in a way, an indirect supporter of the French Revolution movement, she then discusses how an early biographer attempted to fundamentally redefine Smith’s understanding of freedom, Her final example shows how certain philosophers and statesmen in England attempted to confirm their own policies and positions by making reference to Smith and saying that his writings were in line with their policies.

      At this point an individual could justifiably ask what all the fuss is about. Does it really matter if Smith would have been a supporter of the French revolution, labor laws, or any other piece of trivia a historian is trying to suggest is important? They might continue and say that Smith opened up the door to modern economics and it is really not important to immerse oneself into the squabbles of the late 18th century. I answer, however, that it does matter and that Rothschild’s piece allows readers today to better understand the state of the world we now find ourselves in. Generally, when Adam Smith’s name is thrown around it is used to talk about the early development of the free market system and economics. If the average individual, and I daresay the average economist, is pressed to provide more details about who Adam Smith was and what his contributions were, they might make vague references to The Wealth of Nations and then completely skip over the career of Smith or even his earlier work on moral sentiments. The general lack of knowledge about Smith’s corpus or about even the general orientation of his work can lead to contradictory interpretations and is in the end what Rothschild’s essay points to.

      Economists, like individuals in many other fields, operate with many assumptions about how individuals operate. The modern turn has brought in primarily utility or Paretian ideas of maximization. While this move is justifiable at least from the perspective of making problems more tractable it fails to make a strong connection to the ideas of the individual that Smith would have assumed. Smith spilled much ink in the Theory of Moral Sentiments on the motivations and dispositions of the individual. Today there are, just like Rothschild’s examples, different schools of thought within the academy on how to correctly interpret Smith and apply his principles to current problems. The fact that these differences exist must be pointed out and once identified a real discussion must take place to understand what Smith is really saying, whether what Smith has said fits with our current knowledge, and only then can we really come to an understand of what liberty is and how it should be enshrined in our civilization. Rothschild’s essay provides a good first step in that direction.

    • 2 comments
    • First comment 07 Oct 2010 by Steve Kunath
    • Last comment 19 Oct 2010 by Brian Bedient

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