Wednesday, 24 December 2008
The role of the economist as policy advisor
Economists are not traditionally popular as policy advisors. Economics teaches that resources are limited, that choices made imply opportunities forgone, that our actions can have unintended consequences. This is typically not what government officials want to hear. When they propose an import tariff to help domestic manufacturers, we economists explain that this protection will come only at the expense of domestic consumers. When they suggest a minimum-wage law to raise the incomes of low-wage workers, we show that such a law hurts the very people it purports to help by forcing them out of work. On and on it goes. As each new generation of utopian reformers promises to create a better society, through government intervention, the economist stands athwart history, yelling "Remember the opportunity cost!"
Peter G. Klein: Why Intellectuals Still Support Socialism.