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Noah Smith

Check Your Economics Bias

Striving for objectivity is the right approach.
Or left turn, for that matter.

Or left turn, for that matter.

Source: Visions of America/UIG/Getty Images

There’s a pernicious meme going around in economics and social science circles, and I want to help quash it. It’s the idea that social science is an inherently ideological enterprise, and therefore researchers should incorporate value judgments into their methods. 

Variations on this argument are common on both the left and the right. For example, Russ Roberts, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution (a conservative think tank), has written many times that economic debates are inevitably driven by ideology. Economists on the left, he claims, will invariably draw conclusions that support more government intervention in any situation, while economists on the right will look at the same data and draw opposite conclusions. Since ideology rules debates, says Roberts, we should simply admit this at all times.