22 Sep 2009

Am I a Self-Loathing Economist?

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Lately I’ve been ripping economists, such that critics of the free market (?) are quoting me. And then in response to Steve Horwitz saying this:

I love it when the faculty member teaching in classroom the class before mine leaves the board unerased. It gives me a great chance to talk about negative externalities, including why they arise and how they do or do not get resolved. (Last year, I got so pissed with one colleague that I almost snuck in the room before HIS class and filled the board with writing as a way of getting him to think about the problem, but I didn’t.) But here’s a question to think about: are economists more or less likely than faculty from other disciplines to leave their boards unerased? Does our knowledge of economics and negative externalities give us some empathy toward potential cost-bearers that others might not come by as easily?

I commented thusly:

I can imagine some economists leaving it up there and, if challenged, saying, “It’s a stupid system. The administration should dock our paychecks if they want us to erase the board. It’s self-enforcing if we all have to erase the board once in the beginning.”

In fact, I almost convinced myself just now! How do you justify your sucker’s equilibrium, Steve?

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