Are All Economists Right-Wing?

22 10 2013

What is the ideological complexion of the economics profession? Are most economists libertarian right-wingers, centre-left Keynesians, or apolitical technicians? This issue has been debated extensively because economists have a major impact on the making of public policy.  As Keynes said: “Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” This question is particularly important to those of us who study the role of classical liberalism in the making of economic policy or who teach using the documentary Commanding Heights, which provides students with an excellent intellectual history of economic ideas and policies over the course of the twentieth century. 


 A paper on  “The Ideological Migration of the Economics Laureates” is in the September 2013 issue of Econ Journal Watch. The paper profiles of each of the 71 individuals who won the Nobel Prize in economics from 1969 to 2012,  Each profile describes the ideological character and outlook of the laureate. Each profile explores change, or migration, in ideology over the course of the individual’s adult years. In this overview, I interpret ideological change in terms of classical liberalism: Did the laureate grow more classical liberal, less classical liberal, or neither? 


The paper shows that over their careers,  the ideology of 16 Nobel laureates became more classical liberal and five became less committed to the ideology of classical liberalism.

It should be noted that some of the economists studied died before the 2008 Financial Crisis.