Pride in the dismal science

Tim Harford responds to question as to whether the study of economics attracts, or creates, sociopaths. Because apparently it is one or the other.

I would also posit that students’ responses to hypothetical situations while in an academic environment are not necessarily an accurate reflection of real world behaviour, but in any case Harford is a few steps ahead of me:

“If there is a single foundational principle in economics it is that when you give people the chance to trade with each other, both of them tend to become better off. Maybe that’s naive but it’s all about “abundance” and is the precise opposite of a zero-sum mentality.

. . .

Economists may appear ethically impoverished on the question of co-operating in the prisoner’s dilemma but they seem to have a far more favourable attitude to immigration from poorer countries. To an economist, foreigners are people too.”

And don’t miss the last paragraph, in which he explains the “dismal” epithet.


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