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Economics, Economists, and Economic Policy: Modern American Experiences


  • William R. Allen


Much of federal government policy-making and -implementing is economic in matter and repercussion. But most policy decisions are made ultimately by non-economists. There are many economists in government, some of them seasoned government careerists and some on leave from universities. But what is their actual role? What do economists in seemingly significant positions in government do and how do they do it? Under what circumstances and subject to what constraints do they work? How useful is the economist’s training? How sophisticated, how formal, is the analysis upon which they frame their thinking on the issues they deal with? How great is their impact in policy determination? How might the role of economists be better performed? This survey and evaluation is based on candid interviews, from 1972 to 1976, of some sixty well-placed economists who were, or had been, in government. If there is a moral to the story, it may be that the policy process is and inevitably will be far coarser and more compromised in its adherence to sound elemental economics than innocent souls would ever imagine.

Suggested Citation

  • William R. Allen, 2010. "Economics, Economists, and Economic Policy: Modern American Experiences," Econ Journal Watch, Econ Journal Watch, vol. 7(3), pages 235-274, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:ejw:journl:v:7:y:2010:i:3:p:235-274

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2008. "Great Expectations and the End of the Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1476-1516, September.
    2. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Benjamin Pugsley, 2006. "The Mistake of 1937: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 24(S1), pages 151-190, December.
    3. Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2012. "Was the New Deal Contractionary?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(1), pages 524-555, February.
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    More about this item


    policy-making; government economists; role of economists;

    JEL classification:

    • A1 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics


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