Varför ekonomer har så svårt för demokrati

24 May, 2011 at 17:36 | Posted in Economics, Politics & Society | Comments Off on Varför ekonomer har så svårt för demokrati

Harvardprofessorn Dani Rodrik berättar i ett intressant inlägg på Project Syndicate hur han ofta möts av ekonomer som ifrågasätter samhällsvetenskapliga analyser med utgångspunkten att tanken på att ge större utrymme för politiker är en ”uridiotisk idé”. Hans resonemang om varför det låter så från ekonomhåll tål att återges och fundera över:

This criticism reflects a serious misunderstanding of how markets really function. Raised on textbooks that obscure the role of institutions, economists often imagine that markets arise on their own, with no help from purposeful, collective action. Adam Smith may have been right that “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange” is innate to humans, but a panoply of non-market institutions is needed to realize this propensity.

Well-functioning markets are always embedded within broader mechanisms of collective governance. That is why the world’s wealthier economies, those with the most productive market systems, also have large public sectors.

Once we recognize that markets require rules, we must next ask who writes those rules. Economists who denigrate the value of democracy sometimes talk as if the alternative to democratic governance is decision-making by high-minded Platonic philosopher-kings – ideally economists!

But this scenario is neither relevant nor desirable. For one thing, the lower the political system’s transparency, representativeness, and accountability, the more likely it is that special interests will hijack the rules. Of course, democracies can be captured too. But they are still our best safeguard against arbitrary rule.

Moreover, rule-making is rarely about efficiency alone; it may entail trading off competing social objectives – stability versus innovation, for example – or making distributional choices. These are not tasks that we would want to entrust to economists, who might know the price of a lot of things, but not necessarily their value.

Ultimately, the question concerns whom we empower to make the rules that markets require. The unavoidable reality of our global economy is that the principal locus of legitimate democratic accountability still resides within the nation state. So I readily plead guilty to my economist critic’s charge. I do want to make the world safe for democratic politicians. And, frankly, I wonder about those who do not.

Som jag själv argumenterade för tio år sedan i boken Den dystra vetenskapen så är det nog ingen tillfällighet att nationalekonomer tenderar förespråka nyliberala lösningar på i stort sett alla samhällsproblem. Kanske är det rentav så att den nationalekonomiska teorin bygger på samma människo- och samhällsbild som nyliberalismen?

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