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Economists’ ethics in the build-up to the Great Recession

Wade, Robert Hunter (2016) Economists’ ethics in the build-up to the Great Recession. In: DeMartino, George F. and McCloskey, Deirdre N., (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Professional Economic Ethics. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, pp. 268-296. ISBN 9780199766635

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Identification Number: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199766635.013.030


This chapter argues that mainstream economists – mainly American and British contributed to the build-up of the financial fragility which tipped into the Great Recession through their implicit assumption of epistemic asymmetry (hubris) and epistemic sufficiency (close-mindedness, or selective inattention to data and arguments which would upset their way of seeing things). They also contributed, secondarily, through the failure to disclose conflicts of interests, involving collusion between economists and financial organizations. Both these contributions reflect the discipline’s failure to formulate and teach ethical principles for guiding economists as they prescribe policies that may affect the welfare of millions of people and the health of the biosphere. In the absence of ethical restraints economists have too often advocated policies on the assumption that the optimal outcomes will materialize, only to find that their prescriptions bring about unanticipated, harmful effects that catch them off guard.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Oxford University Press
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2019 12:09
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2023 14:35

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