Desmond McNeill: Safety in Numbers: why everyone listens to economists

In Eriksen, Thomas Hylland and Schober, Elisabeth (ed). Knowledge and Power in an Overheated World, 2017.

Abstract

Policy-makers base their decisions largely on calculations made by economists. But the details of the techniques that economists use are not generally understood; and estimated values, based on calculations by reputed economists, can vary by a factor of 100 or even 1,000 times. Why, then, do economists exercise such power? To explore these issues, this article begins with an analysis of the techniques that economists use 127 to put a money value on time, on human life, on the ‘environmental services’ that nature provides, and on the significance attached to future generations. These examples are then used to draw some conclusions about how and why the expert knowledge of economists exerts such power in modern society.

Keywords

economists, knowledge, nature, power, techniques, value

Published Nov. 1, 2017 11:49 AM - Last modified Nov. 1, 2017 11:49 AM