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Philip Cohen on the Disproportionate Influence of Economists

“Compliant” economics serves power, not science

Economic models are not always successful in fully explaining or predicting outcomes, partly because they overlook the fact that people make many of their decisions for reasons that are not purely economic. Economists have difficulty accounting for many aspects of social life--like collective identity, conflicting desires, and exploitation. Yet economists seem to occupy a position of greater influence than other social scientists. In a recent op-ed article published in the New York Times, MPRC faculty associate Philip Cohen states that “economists’ influence is largely proportional to the degree with which their analysis comports with the interests of those who make the most influential decisions."

Cohen suggests that it might be time to question uncritical assumptions about the outsized influence of those economists who support big business agendas in return for “privileged perches around the seats of power”. Instead of making economic growth the primary justification for government action, our leaders could aim for other goals—like reducing inequality, enhancing health, or protecting the environment.

Read the story in the New York Times

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