Economic Advice and Rhetoric
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Economic Advice and Rhetoric

Why do Consultants Perform Better than Academic Advisers?

Onno Bouwmeester

This book compares the approaches of consultants and academic advisers and provides an in-depth analysis of their advice argumentation. Both compete on the market for economic advice, with consultants enjoying a larger market share and usually obtaining higher fees. However, academics criticize them for overcharging, shallowness, and quick-and-dirty methods. So, are consultants’ clients misled or even cheated? Not necessarily. The book reveals that academics have drawbacks as well; their arguments are less balanced than those of consultants and their estimates contradict each other more.
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Chapter 4: Espoused Theory of Advice Argumentation

Onno Bouwmeester


Although consultants and academic advisers discuss the same economic questions, their approach will be different if their professional ethos is different. Ethos generates an image about the character of someone who speaks or writes (Aristotle, 1991, p. 1356a), which of course applies to consultants and academic advisers. Ethos determines a character that clients or audiences can recognize. Someone can have a truth-loving character, a friendly character or a helping character depending on the values she identifies with. Professional ethos therefore is the value system that guides the practice of professionals like consultants or academic advisers. The analysis of ethos can explain why authors prefer one approach over another by reference to the moral or scientific standards they identify with. Because values can explain what is important to a particular profession, they can also explain why academics consider consultant knowledge biased or flawed: consultants ignore some of the standards academic advisers identify with. Ethos can also explain why consultants do not heed these criticisms: consultants consider other values more important. The previous chapters referred to academic debates about positivist and instrumental economic advice and to advice from a post-positivist perspective in the philosophical, rhetorical and social science literature. They presented arguments to doubt the appropriateness of the dominant instrumentalist view on economic advice. A next step is to ask practicing advisers about their professional values. How do consultants and academic advisers reflect on the way they support their advice with arguments? How should advice be written down? What kind of arguments...

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