Dani Rodrik on seeing like an economist

There are powerful forces having to do with the sociology of the profession and the socialization process that tend to push economists to think alike. Most economists start graduate school not having spent much time thinking about social problems or having studied much else besides math and economics. The incentive and hierarchy systems tend to reward those with the technical skills rather than interesting questions or research agendas. An in-group versus out-group mentality develops rather early on that pits economists against other social scientists.

That’s one of the more interesting quotes, but it makes Dani sound much more critical of mainstream economics than the full discussion implies. He also extolls all that is right in economics. Read it in full.

Dani’s actually one of the four or five scholars that, at a young and impressionable age, influenced me to do what I’m doing today. As an MPA/ID student at Harvard, I was attracted to both political science and economics PhD programs, and asked him what I should do. He won’t remember this, but his answer stuck with me: “Look at the scholars you admire, and do what they did.”

This wasn’t a suggestion to do economics, but to follow your heart. As it happens, I looked around, and my heart was with the scholars who brought economic models and methods to new and under-explored political and social questions, with real-world implications. 13 years later, here I am.

This is a long way of saying: read all of Dani’s advice.