January 8, 2011

Maxine Udall: Ethics and Economists

Maxine Udall reports that a group of economists have sent a letter to the presidents of the American Economic Association (AEA), urging the adoption of a code of ethics. This includes an emphasis on the need to disclose conflicts of interest "that can arise between economists’ roles as economic experts and as paid consultants, principals or agents for private firms." Udall writes,
Economics is unusual among the social science professions in that it lacks professional ethical codes or guidelines. In addition to the American Sociological Association, the American Anthropology Association has a code of ethics. Similarly, the American Psychology Association and the American Statistical Association both have guidelines for ethics. These codes and guidelines vary in several ways: some demand that professional members simply reveal potential conflicts; others demand that they do whatever they can to avoid or end such conflicts.
This is a pretty interesting turn of events--especially considering the number of economists out there giving advice and opinions on a daily basis. I wonder how this will turn out...and I wonder how different economists will react to this idea.

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