Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Toward a Public and Professional Identity for Our Economics


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Aristotle said, “Character is that which reveals moral purpose, exposing the class of things a man chooses or avoids.” Perhaps ten percent of economists in the United States have characters similar to those of Adam Smith, Edwin Cannan, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase, and James Buchanan. A character is not an identity, however. An identity is a name that functions openly in the culture. Identity is a cultural enterprise of the individuals constituting the community it identifies. This essay suggests that there is a latent demand for a new identity to represent the character represented by Smith, Cannan, Hayek, Friedman, Coase, and Buchanan. I briefly characterize the character in question, discuss the benefits of building an identity for it, and suggest how to move forward. I invite further exploration by way of a questionnaire. I intend to put the questionnaire to a selection of economists and make the completed questionnaires available online.