Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Smith-Hayek Economist: From Character to Identity

An article by Daniel B. Klein on the Smith-Hayek Economist.

Here are some characteristics of the Smith-Hayek economist:

"a tendency to make the distinction between voluntary and coercive action clear in formulating many basic economic categories, principles, and arguments;
an appreciation that knowledge is not merely information, but also interpretation and judgment, and as such is highly particular to the individual and the moment; it is essential for humans to err, in the sense that they kick themselves for having interpreted or judged badly;
a sense that economics must be relevant and serve social purposes, and that such service necessarily entails heavy engagement with non-economists, notably laypeople and policy-makers;
a sensibility that economic reality is incredibly complex, inspiring the eschewal of efforts to paint a picture of the economy or how it "really" works;
a sober, non-romantic view of government—since economic reality is scarcely knowable, we should be wary of those who pretend to manipulate it beneficially;
a presumption in favor of liberty, not the status quo.

The Smith-Hayek characteristics are by no means typical of economists today. As one who shares those characteristics, I wonder if Smith-Hayek economists could do better. Maybe they would do better if they created an effective "we.""

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