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Category:Economists: Conflict of Interest

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“Why do we talk about conflicts of interest when doctors prescribe medicine for people, but not when economists prescribe treatment for the economy? Their panaceas have serious side effects.”
—Jean Gadrey, economist[1]

Economists with possible conflicts of interest in opinions they express or in the policy recommendations that they make.

  1. Many economists appear as commentators in the media and are only described as "economists", possibly mentioning their university affiliations. What isn't usually revealed is that such economists can have many other positions in finance or corporations. While the listening public might think that an "economist" is an expert or otherwise unbiased scientist/academic, in reality their positions and interests may be tainted by their financial associations, e.g., board memberships, paid remuneration, paid speaking engagements, chairs at universities (paid by corporations), commissioned reports or articles, consulting fees, or positions at industry think tanks/lobbying groups.
  2. A second class of compromised economists is those who enter policymaking positions while the conflict of interest of such a person is either not revealed nor taken into account. For example, an economist who might have provided arguments against regulation of a given industry and then be given a regulatory role.
  3. Economists are often "expert witnesses" in legal cases, and in most circumstances they present legal arguments based on a pliable economic theory; invariably they have been paid by large corporations to utter expert opinion of use to the organization paying for it.

References

  1. Renaud Lambert, Well advised: Independent economists, or members of the board?, Le monde diplomatique, March 2012. This is the question posed by Charles Ferguson in Inside Job, a film about the 2008 financial debacle.