An Intellectual Bailout: We Must Add Another Field to the List of Those in Need of Rescuing-Economics Itself

By Naim, Moises | Foreign Policy, January-February 2009 | Go to article overview

An Intellectual Bailout: We Must Add Another Field to the List of Those in Need of Rescuing-Economics Itself


Naim, Moises, Foreign Policy


The financial crisis has killed the claim that economics deserves to be treated as a science. The measure of a science is its capacity to explain, predict, and prescribe. And most economists not only failed to anticipate the nature and evolution of the catastrophe, but their conflicting recommendations on how to stabilize the situation exposed the unreliability of their knowledge. As much as Wall Street and Main Street, the economics profession needs a bailout of its own.

Policy gyrations and faulty calls have revealed that economics itself is in crisis: The experts simply have no idea what to do. No less an expert than U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke repeatedly declared the worst was over, only to admit with chagrin much later that "I and others were mistaken early on in saying that the subprime crisis would be contained." As recently as mid-November, Bernanke told the U.S. Congress that he thought the measures that had been taken "appeared to stabilize the situation," a pronouncement that proved wrong almost as soon as it was made. The fault lies less with Bernanke for trying to calm the markets than with the accumulated body of economic knowledge that failed miserably to equip him and other policymakers with more reliable tools to anticipate and navigate the crisis.

So, along with banks and brokerages, mortgage holders and emerging markets, it's time to add another rescue effort to the list--for economics itself. This intellectual bailout will force economists to revise the models and methods unquestioned during the boom years. It will force them to produce new tools suited to a new era and reinvigorate their thinking by borrowing more intensively from other disciplines, such as psychology and political science.

Continuing to assume, for example, that corporations always behave as profit maximizers and dismissing the importance of the self-interested behavior of their unaccountable managers will become much harder after this crash. Prolonged good times encourage bad habits and complacency not only among corporations and consumers but also among economists. The crash will stimulate creativity and the new thinking that comes from recognition of failure; the years ahead are bound to replenish the intellectual capital on which economists base their influence.

Certainly, the intellectual failures and the policy mistakes that led to the Great Depression produced a surge of innovative economic thinking. Thanks to the insights of John Maynard Keynes and others, governments now know that battling a crisis with tight money, spending cuts, and trade barriers fuels the economic fires instead of dousing them. So, they've put in place humongous bailouts and even larger fiscal stimulus packages that we are all hoping will work. If they do, economists will earn back some of their tarnished reputation.

Regaining intellectual respectability will be sorely needed to reverse some of the bad policy ideas that are gaining currency in the present crisis. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

An Intellectual Bailout: We Must Add Another Field to the List of Those in Need of Rescuing-Economics Itself
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.