Saturday, January 1, 2011

Economical Ethics

Some things are just too easy. 

News that the American Economics Association is going to take up the possibility of adopting an ethics code.

The impetus is a documentary film, in which embarrassing interviews are shown with Glenn Hubbard and Frederic Mishkin.

David Rucio, at Real Economics Review, notes that Economics, unlike other academic professions, has no ethics code.

Believing that Economics is a deeply corrupt enterprise, I'm not the pious sort, who think an ethics code is likely to do much good, by itself.  It is heartening that at least some professional economists were disturbed to see the whorishness of some of their most esteemed colleagues on the silver screen, but I think developing an ethics code is likely to be a kind of distraction, a way to re-channel substantive concern about the damage done to the economy into a pious and self-serving concern about the damage done to the Profession.

So, here's my take, my teeny-tiny effort to get folks not to look away.

The scandal is not that some economists get paid.
The scandal is not that some economists get paid quite a lot of money.
The scandal is not that economists who get paid a lot of money like to obscure their association with certain institutions that pay them.

The core of the scandal is that (many) economists know very little about the economy and get paid a lot of money to make unfounded claims about the economy, anyway, as a means of impeding public understanding and responsible state action.

A large part of the profession our society assigns the task of understanding political economy has evolved a "body of knowledge" that consists largely of null results and excuses for ignorance.

One can be absolutely certain that the American Economic Association will focus on the purely ceremonial aspects, like ritual disclosure, and ignore the purveying of ignorance, lies and poisonous ideas.

(h/t to the Sandwichman for being the tipping point that got me to feel I ought to create a post on this, as futile as feels.  Like all blogging isn't futile.)

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