Monday, April 4, 2016

Richard Vedder on the Transformation of Economics

Richard Vedder, who is well-known for his work on the minimum wage, wrote a short op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about a month ago that I thought was pretty interesting. Vedder makes 5 observations about changes to economics over his career. Below I'll share three of them but the whole piece is worth reading.

Vedder starts off discussing ideological creep in the profession:
Economics as ideology in camouflage. Economists who achieve fame for genuine intellectual insights, like Paul Krugman, sometimes then morph into ideologues—predominantly although not exclusively on the left. The leftish domination of American academia is partly explained by economics. Federal student-loan programs, state appropriations, special tax preferences and federal research-overhead funds have underwritten academic prosperity, even at so-called private schools. The leftish agenda today is one of big government; academics are rent-seekers who generally don’t bite the hand that feeds them. The problem is even worse in other “social sciences.”
On a related note, he describes the rise of policy think tanks:
The rise of the nonuniversity research centers. A reaction to the liberal ideological orientation and inefficiencies of colleges has spawned this phenomenon. When I was attending college around 1960, the Brookings Institution, National Bureau of Economic Research and the Hoover Institution were among relatively few major independent think tanks. Today there are many, especially ones funded on the right to provide intellectual diversity, including nationally or regionally oriented centers such as the American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Heartland Institute and the Independent Institute, as well as dozens of state-policy think tanks. Universities have lost market share in social-science research.
Vedder then turns to his own work on labor economics:
A major cause of America’s economic malaise: the government’s war on work. My own research with Lowell Gallaway has stressed the importance of labor costs in explaining output and employment fluctuations. If the price of something rises, people buy less of it—including labor. Thus governmental interferences such as minimum-wage laws lower the quantity of labor demanded, while high taxes on labor reduces labor supply, as do public payments to people for not working. 

No comments:

Post a Comment