Saturday, August 28, 2010

Economics and the lure of technocracy

Ewe E. Reinhardt (NY Times):
When Value Judgments Masquerade as Science

Technocracy: "government by technicians; specifically : management of society by technical experts".

This is an excellent short column, that further illustrates one of the key points of the post on a cultural Uncertainty Principle. Here's Reinhardt, for example, on the difficulty of avoiding politics even when one tries -- and this pertains far beyond economics:
It must be acknowledged, however, that a researcher’s political ideology or vested interest in a particular theory can still enter even ostensibly descriptive analysis by the data set chosen for the research; the mathematical transformations of raw data and the exclusion of so-called outlier data; the specific form of the mathematical equations posited for estimation; the estimation method used; the number of retrials in estimation to get what strikes the researcher as “plausible” results, and the manner in which final research findings are presented.
And here he is on economists, in particular, who don't try to refrain from political interventions (can you think of any?):
In their application of the Kaldor-Hicks criterion to real-world problems, however, economists act like collectivists who seek to allocate society’s resources under a preferred moral doctrine. Economists take on the role of a benevolent dictator presumed to be empowered by someone to redistribute welfare among individual members of society for a larger social purpose — increases in what economists call efficiency and the maximization of what they call overall social welfare.
Thanks to Greg Mankiw 

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