Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ethical Conduct for Economists?

Is it an oxymoron?

The first group of papers has been posted for the online WEA conference, Economics in Society: the Ethical Dimension, among them Crisis, Credit and Credulity: the incredible circulation of a counterfeit idea by Tom Walker (AKA Sandwichman):
Abstract: Even as the first warning signs of the global credit crisis were emerging in 2008, the IMF published a working paper that sought to analyze the youth employment effects of early retirement schemes in Belgium but ignored the historical context of those policies as part of the response to an earlier crisis – the "steel crisis" of the 1970s and 80s. Instead, the authors dwelt on a dubious but well-worn fallacy claim that advocates of early retirement policies believe there is a "fixed amount of work to be done", a "lump of labor." In the context of the astonishing history of the fallacy claim, what might seem a questionable paradigm choice for the paper's authors constitutes an inexcusable ethical lapse for the economics profession. Not only is the fallacy claim notoriously unsubstantiated, it originated as a propagandist's forgery and gained currency as a viciously partisan polemic against trade unions. Subsequent textbook versions of the fallacy claim may have toned down the vitriolic rhetoric but their ad hoc rationalizations neglect to offer any substitute for the original's fabricated evidence for the alleged belief. Financial credit depends on trust and today that foundation of trust extends to the scientific knowledge and technical analysis of experts. What does the enduring credulity of economists toward a demonstrably counterfeit fallacy claim suggest about the prospects for the economics profession to confront and remedy its ethical failures?
Meanwhile, the Sandwichman has compiled a list of economists, journalists and a few politicians over the past decade or so who have invoked the fraudulent fallacy claim, either in unvarnished credulity or with malice aforethought:

Peter Antonioni, David Autor, Ryan Avent, Martin Neil Baily, James Banks, Bruce Bartlett, Andrew Biggs, Matthew Bishop, Olivier Blanchard, Walter Block, Richard Blundell, Tito Boeri, Axel Börsch-Supan, Antoine Bozio, Samuel Brittan, Michael Burda, Pierre Cahuc, Laura Carstensen, Philip Coggan, Peter Coy, Diane Coyle, Andrew Coyne, Bruno Crepon, Clive Crook, Ed Crooks, Michael Cuneo, Reginald Dale, Jaap de Koning, Klaas de Vos, Werner Eichhorst, Carl Emmerson, Marcello Estevão, Sean Flynn, Thomas Friedman, Ed Glaeser, Robert Gordon, Jonathan Grubel, Matthew Hancock, Alister Heath, Ruth Hubbard, Jennifer Hunt, Will Hutton, Richard Jackman, Juan Jimeno, Alain Jousten, Adriaan Kalwij, Arie Kapteyn, Laurence Katz, Joshua Katz, Achim Kemmerling, Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, Dylan Kissane, Francis Kramarz, Paul Krugman, Simon Kuper, Jason Kuznicki, Oliver Landmann, Richard Layard, Ruth Lea, Mathieu Lefebvre, Melanie Luhrmann, Landis Mackellar, John Macnicol, Bill McBride, Francois Melese, Giles Merritt, John Micklethwait, Kevin Milligan, Jack Mintz, Casey Mulligan, John Munro, Stephen Nickell, Kristian Niemetz, Gilles Paquet, Jamie Peck, Sergio Perlman, Pierre Pestieau, Christopher Rhoads, Matt Ridley, Nick Rowe, Filipa Sá, Gilles Saint-Paul, Xavier Sala-i-Martin, Thorsten Schank, Amity Shlaes, John Shoven, Robert Simmons, Hans-Werner Sinn, Dennis Snower, Guy Standing, Nigel Stanley, Will Straw, Timothy Taylor, Marian Tupy, Ernst van Koesveld, Matthias Weiss, Niels Westergaard-Nielsen, Alan Wheatley, Charles Wheelan, David Willetts, David Wise, Tim Worstall, Asghar Zaidi, Jeffrey Zax, Klaus Zimmermann, Andre Zylberberg

He who gives credit to the calumny before he has investigated the truth is equally implicated. -- Herodotus


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