Do the Values of Economists Matter in the Art and Science of Economics?

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Abstract

What role do personal values play in the practice of economists? By means of a survey among economists working inside and outside academia in the Netherlands we present novel insights into their personal value structure, how they differ from the average citizen, and how it impacts their economic views and their methodological choices. Three overarching values summarize the value structure of economists: achievement, serving the public interest, and conformity to rules. Subsequent tests are performed to see whether these values affect: (1) their opinion on economic propositions; and (2) their attitudes towards methodological principles in economics. For the majority of economic propositions personal values matter. Especially the value to serve the public interest has a strong effect on their economic view. Furthermore, it seems that economists who value achievement are the ones who are more likely to embrace mainstream methodological principles: thinking predominantly in terms of efficiency, rationality and competition, believing that economic knowledge is objective and transparently produced and in agreement with Milton Friedman’s view on positive economics. Female economists are at some notable points less convinced of market solutions and have more trust in the government in serving the public interest.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherCentER, Center for Economic Research
Number of pages41
Volume2019-004
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2019

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper
Volume2019-004

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Keywords

  • values
  • economists
  • public policy
  • consensus
  • methodology
  • gender

Cite this

van Dalen, H. (2019). Do the Values of Economists Matter in the Art and Science of Economics? (CentER Discussion Paper; Vol. 2019-004). Tilburg: CentER, Center for Economic Research.