Friday, February 23, 2018

On the American Economic Association’s proposed Code of Professional Conduct


On February 6 of this year, the Secretary-Treasurer of the American Economic Association (AEA) sent the following email to the members of the Association:

In October 2017 Alvin E. Roth formed an Ad Hoc Committee to Consider a Code of Professional Conduct for Economists, and charged it with evaluating various aspects of professional conduct, including those which stifle diversity in Economics. The ad hoc committee, composed of John Campbell (chair), Marianne Bertrand, Pascaline  Dupas, Benjamin Edelman, and Matthew D. Shapiro discussed an interim report and  draft code with the AEA Executive Committee at its meeting on January 4, 2018, and provided an update to the AEA membership at the Annual Business Meeting on January 5 in Philadelphia. The interim report and draft code are now ready and available for viewing and comment by the AEA membership at large, and the Executive Committee encourages your participation and assistance in bringing these items ahead to final versions.
The ad hoc committee's interim report is available here:

The draft Code of Professional Conduct is available here:

To offer comments on either or both items, please use the link below before March 15, 2018:

My Comment 

When I began the study of economics, almost seventy years ago, as a young adolescent, almost everyone seemed to take it for granted that full respect for individual rights, including property rights, as called for by the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, would inevitably result in a society in which greedy capitalists drove the wages of the great mass of people down to or below minimum subsistence, while lengthening the hours of work to the maximum possible, and imposing nightmarish working conditions.

Even today such are the beliefs of the great majority of people. This becomes clear simply by asking what most people believe would happen if there were no pro-union or minimum wage laws, and no maximum hours or child labor laws.

Now, today, we can observe both in the “Interim Report” on considering a code of professional conduct and in the “Draft AEA Code of Conducthow much the intellectual horizon of the economics profession, at least as represented by the AEA, has shriveled. It has gone from concern with world-shaking, life-and-death issues to concern with insignificant trivia.

Such questions and concerns as whether or not capitalism exploits the average worker have been replaced with such questions and concerns as “Ending harassment”—sexual harassment (p. 5 of the “Interim Report”). Not even rape, mind you, (which is against the law and severely punished, and is attended to by the police and prosecutors, not economists)—but sexual harassment, which can mean something as small as a man repeatedly asking a woman to go out with him despite her repeated refusals. This is what economists are now to be concerned with.

This is not to be the only concern of economists. They are also to be concerned with “creating a professional environment with equal opportunity and equal treatment for all economists, regardless of age, gender, race, …” and so on and on ad nauseam. (The only thing missing is an enumeration of the alleged 63 genders.)

Such lists are intended to prove one’s acceptance of “diversity.” Yes, there is diversity—in utterly irrelevant respects. There is virtually no diversity in ideas and theories. True diversity would mean such things as making the ideas and theories of Ludwig von Mises a standard part of the discussion instead of ignoring them.

The “Interim Report” urges what is implicitly a program of spying, which it calls “Monitoring and reporting on climate.” For example, observing and quantifying “the extent to which there is unproductive aggressiveness in economics or its subfields.” (p. 4.)

Enough of the “Interim Report.”

The “Draft AEA Code of Conduct” calls for, among other things, “the disclosure of conflicts of interest.” This language leaves the door wide open for any Marxist to claim that if his opponent advocates a policy of any kind that protects the property rights of the rich, and at the same time is himself “rich” or in the employ of the “rich,” he is dishonest, guided by his alleged “class interest” rather than considerations of truth or falsehood.

The “Draft” repeats verbatim the language it believes establishes “diversity” credentials.

A paragraph earlier, it writes of “the “perfect freedom of economic discussion.” This “freedom” is apparently to be established by an environment of spying and fear, as called for in the “Interim Report.” In addition, the document totally ignores the violations of the freedom of discussion that go on, on college and university campuses across the country, in which student thugs forcibly prevent speakers from speaking.

The motive of the “Interim Report” and the “Code” is not any legitimate concern with advancing the state of economics, but rather it is the very illegitimate and downright evil motive of gaining power over the economics profession, by imposing a reign of fear on economists, who will have to be concerned with whether or not they are violating the code, which they might do simply by offending someone.

If this code, or anything remotely like it, is adopted, I for one will resign from the American Economic Association, which I will then regard as just one more group dedicated to political “correctness” rather than to knowledge and truth. Indeed, I would then think of the AEA as an organization of such small mindedness and so laughable as to deserve a membership comprised of nothing but clones of Saturday Night Live’s “Church Lady,” indeed, of Church Lady’s maiden aunt.

In any event, I will never allow any “Big Sister” to watch me.