Edited by Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren
Chapter 8: Code of Ethics for Economists
Robin L. Bartlett Introduction The American Economic Association (AEA) and the International Economic Association, unlike most professional associations, do not have codes of ethics to guide their members in conducting their daily professional activities. Yet there is general agreement among most professionals that without codes of ethics, significant harm can be done both directly and indirectly. Moreover, in business settings, employees who lose the direct recognition and economic rewards they deserve may be less trusting of the system, less motivated to do their best, and less willing to work collaboratively, all of which are counterproductive. In academic settings, instructors may lose confidence in their abilities, students may quit doing their best and the acquisition or creation of economic knowledge may proceed at a much slower pace than otherwise would be the case. While some professionals may abuse the power of their relative position, others may abuse their power as experts. Economists are presumed to have more knowledge and understanding of how individuals decide to allocate scarce resources and how the economy operates than the average individual on the street. Members of the press, colleagues in other disciplines, students and co-workers defer to economists’ knowledge on relevant topics. A layperson may have difficulty evaluating the quality of statements made by economists. They assume (i) that economists possess the education, skills and information to make such statements; (ii) that economists are truthful about what they know; and (iii) that economists are honest about the limitations and purposes to which their knowledge can...
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