Saturday, April 20, 2013

The average morally bankrupt economist would do pretty much anything for an extra buck.

Bruce Baker:

Let’s assume behavioral economic principles really hold steadfast and can be grossly simplified to an anything for an extra buck, or not to lose one, position. I would argue that it is perhaps economists themselves that are most stereotypical in this regard. In fact, I would argue that many, born out of a culture that self-selects into economic professions, are simply going out of their way to project their own thinking on others.

Further, many of these economists operate in a world where they can influence/control public policy and they too have an incentive in how they behave in this system. They are not impartial observers by any stretch of the imagination. Their goal is to use their behavioral economic research to shape public policy to their own advantage.

Put simply, just because the average morally bankrupt economist would do pretty much anything for an extra buck or a billion, doesn't mean the average teacher, doctor, nurse, fireman or police officer would!

It is important to remember that one of the most important underpinnings of this reform movement is the idea that the reformers understand human motivation -- particularly teachers' motivations -- better than anyone else, particularly teachers, administrators with an education background, or elected officials.

If they're wrong about this (and I think they are), most of the rest of the edifice falls apart. You don't have to go to the other extreme -- believing teachers act completely altruistically -- to think they're wrong about the particular dynamics (e.g., undervaluing risk-aversion among teachers, or overvaluing the utility of pay increases).

1 comment:

Mike said...

Great sentence:

"You don't have to go to the other extreme -- believing teachers act completely altruistically -- to think they're wrong about the particular dynamics (e.g., undervaluing risk-aversion among teachers, or overvaluing the utility of pay increases)."