Samstag, 22. März 2014

Economists: Scientist and Philosopher

Interessanter (wenn auch nicht ganz innovativer) Beitrag von G. Mankiw.

Er schreibt darüber, dass Ökonomen in der Politikberatung auch immer Werturteile abgeben.
"Do you want to know a dirty little secret of economists who give policy advice? When we do so, we are often speaking not just as economic scientists, but also as political philosophers. Our recommendations are based not only on our understanding of how the world works, but also on our judgments about what makes a good society. [...]

The necessity of political philosophy arises because most policies are good for some people and bad for others. [...] Evaluating the overall effect of these policies requires balancing competing interests.

To strike this balance, many economists think in terms of a “social welfare function” that aggregates individuals’ well-being into a summary measure. [...] The utilitarians suggested that each person in society receives a certain amount of happiness, or “utility,” from an allocation of society’s resources. The job of policy makers, they argued, is to do their best to maximize the total utility of everyone in society.

Philosophers have long debated the validity of utilitarianism as an ethical criterion.[...] Sometimes, respecting natural rights trumps maximizing utility.Another problem with the utilitarian approach is that there is no objective way to compare one person’s happiness with another’s, especially when people have different preferences. [...]

Perhaps the biggest problem with maximizing a social welfare function like utility is practical: We economists often have only a basic understanding of how most policies work. The economy is complex, and economic science is still a primitive body of knowledge. Because unintended consequences are the norm, what seems like a utility-maximizing policy can often backfire. [...]

So, what is the alternative? At the very least, a large dose of humility is in order. When evaluating policies, our elected leaders are wise to seek advice from economists. But if an economist is always confident in his judgments, or if he demonizes those who reach opposite conclusions, you know that he is not to be trusted."

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