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Distinguished Lecture on Economics in Government: Public Policy, Values, and Consciousness

  • Henry J. Aaron

Economists should pay more attention to value formation in economic analysis. First, preferences are not stable in any operationally meaningful sense. Any estimated micro behavior that does not take account of the consequences of the behavior on underlying preferences is incapable of serving as a guide to future action. Second, the economist's model of human psychology is inaccurate and misleading. Third, most analyses of complex social behavior start from models incapable of producing empirical results adequate for useful structural analyses. The paper suggests avenues for making progress on each of these issues, beginning with a different approach to utility maximization.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.8.2.3
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 8 (1994)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 3-21

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:8:y:1994:i:2:p:3-21
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.8.2.3
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  1. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-19, June.
  2. Rabin, Matthew, 1993. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1281-1302, December.
  3. Richard J. Herrnstein & Drazen Prelec, 1991. "Melioration: A Theory of Distributed Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 137-156, Summer.
  4. Hanushek, Eric A, 1986. "The Economics of Schooling: Production and Efficiency in Public Schools," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 24(3), pages 1141-77, September.
  5. H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Dekel, Eddie & Scotchmer, Suzanne, 1992. "On the evolution of optimizing behavior," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 392-406, August.
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