Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Do Professors of Economics need re-training?

This survey of 299 Professors of Economics in the USA shows many interesting results. Here are some of those that I found most interesting:

1) Their party leanings are towards the left (a well known fact), but they also add to this an anti-liberal inclination. As shown on the next table only 41.9% have a liberalism score higher than the neutral level (2) and only 6.4% have a score higher than 3. For a profession that is supposed to teach about competitive markets they seem to dislike capitalism. It looks like having vegetarians working as butchers.

2) Their knowledge of the Classics does not seem very strong. As expected Adam Smith tops the list of their favorite thinkers. However, Stanley Jevons (the father of the marginalist revolution) barely makes the list, while Karl Marx comes fifth despite being proven wrong in all his propositions. Their knowledge of 20th Century Economists does not fare better. John Hicks, who, together with Paul Samuelson, was the Marshall of the last century gets little recognition, while a sociologist/economist like Veblen (whose main contribution was a sociological study on the Leisure Classes) comes seventh.

3) Finally, since I gave up economics 20-years ago, my personal ignorance about the current generation of economists is also interesting. Despite keeping an eye on what is going on in economics I could not recognize more than 4 names among the favorite 23 economists aged less than 60 years. Moreover, two of them (Bernanke and Sachs) I only know them because of the positions they hold. The top two, Krugman and Mankiw, I know them mostly because of their best selling introductory textbooks and blogs. This lack of knowledge it is obviously my fault, but I would bet that most of the unknown 20 favorites are just what I call econometricians (or, pejoratively, second-rate mathematicians).

In conclusion, Professors of Economics must share some of the blame for the dismal state of the “dismal science”.

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