Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Knut Wicksell, Gustav Cassel, Eli Heckscher, Bertil Ohlin and Gunnar Myrdal on the Role of the Economist in Public Debate

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Abstract

In Swedish public debate, economists have been more influential than any other category of social scientists. We examine the views of five great Swedish economists on the role of the university economist in the public arena. What did they say about scholarly objectivity and value judgements, about political commitment and educating the people? The five economists are Knut Wicksell, Gustav Cassel, Eli Heckscher, Bertil Ohlin and Gunnar Myrdal. Representing two generations and a broad political spectrum, they were immensely productive. They founded Sweden’s tradition of media-tuned university economists strongly involved in the current social issues. More recently, however, academic economists in Sweden have shifted away from that ideal. The future of the old heritage hangs in doubt.