Economists seeking to shore up government power often have a tendency to present their own narrow views as sacrosanct — as though contrary perspectives in the profession didn’t even exist. That’s the primary takeaway from a letter to the Guardian in the United Kingdom that was signed by 79 economists, including Thomas Piketty, argues Philip Booth of Atlas Network partner the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in a recent analysis. The economists argued against plans for “permanent budget surpluses” in U.K. government spending, claiming that they “have no basis in economics.”
Booth spends some time describing the array of economic theory that supports budget surpluses, showing that they do, in fact, have a solid foundation in economics — contrary to the short-sighted, insular, and ideological claims of the Guardian signers. He also compares the recent Guardian letter with one sent to the Times in 1981, signed by 364 economists who argued for fiscal fine-tuning of the British economy. In that letter, much like in this one, economists who encouraged widespread economic interventionism claimed that there “is no basis in economic theory” for contrary views, despite a profession filled with dissenting economists.
“The 79 who wrote to the Guardian are teaching the best and brightest of our undergraduates,” Booth concludes. “Following the financial crisis, many have recognised that students should be taught a wider variety of paradigms, ideas and theories. The IEA has been a strong supporter of their perspective and has participated in the events of the Manchester University Post-Crash Economics Society. Of course, the IEA has also been responsible for popularising public choice economics, Austrian economics and institutional economics in Britain. Students deserve to be taught by economists who are passionate about their ideas. However, they also need to be taught by economists who understand that there are alternative ideas.”
Read Philip Booth’s full analysis, “Closed-minded economists.”