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 on their personal values, how these differ from the average citizen, and how values impact 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 of serving 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
Pages (from-to)472-499
JournalKyklos
Volume72
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2019

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Economics
Economics of science
Economists
Art and Science
Personal values
Public interest
Public Interest
Personal Values
Rationality
Economic impact
Conformity
Government
Milton Friedman
The Netherlands

Keywords

  • Economists
  • Values
  • Methodology
  • Economic policy
  • Science
  • Ideology

Cite this

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title = "Values of economists matter in the art and science of economics",
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 on their personal values, how these differ from the average citizen, and how values impact 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 of serving 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.",
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Values of economists matter in the art and science of economics. / van Dalen, Harry.

In: Kyklos, Vol. 72, No. 3, 08.2019, p. 472-499.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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