Do Economists Make Policies?

Elizabeth Popp Berman and I just received the good news that the final version of our paper on how economists influence policymaking was posted at Socioeconomic Review. We hope those interested in the political power of economic ideas, experts, and tools will find it useful. Abstract:

Economics is often described as the most politically influential social science and yet economic advice is often largely irrelevant to prominent policy debates. We draw on literatures in political science, sociology and science and technology studies to explain this apparent contradiction. Existing research suggests that the influence of economics is mediated by local circumstances and meso-level social structures, and that much of it flows through indirect channels. We elaborate three sites of analysis useful for unpacking these influences: the broad professional authority of economics, the institutional position of economists in government, and the role of economics in the cognitive infrastructure of policymaking, including the diffusion of economic styles of reasoning and the establishment of economic policy devices for seeing and deciding.

Let us know what you think!

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  1. Umut Koc

     /  April 18, 2014

    Very good article. I think the polarization level of the national policy is one important factor, too. When polarization is high (similar to the current state of the-new-data-journalism), “reliance on empiricism is an ideology” (

    • Thanks! That’s an interesting point, and perhaps connected to Medvetz’s story on the rise of think tanks. There’s definitely a lot of interactions between the organization of experts and expertise on the one hand, and the organization of politicians and parties on the other.

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