How Persuasive Is a Reputation for Consistent Advocacy of Efficiency?
By Bryan Caplan
The more I think about Robin’s position on efficiency, the more it puzzles me. In his talk, he heavily emphasized economists’ need to build an iron-clad reputation for “neutrality” in order to persuade a world full of non-economists who distrust us. If we preach and practice “efficiency always,” people will feel more comfortable relying upon our advice.
This sounds good. But what evidence is that there that a reputation for consistent advocacy of efficiency is actually persuasive? Does Robin point to any evidence from psychology? No. Does Robin point to any evidence that rigid efficiency advocates are more politically influential? No. Does Robin even claim that his rigid efficiency advocacy makes him unusually politically influential? Quite the opposite; see his first-hand account of the “terrorism betting market” witchhunt.
According to Robin’s official argument, “If economists stand by efficiency, it will make them persuasive.” But on reflection, doesn’t his real argument seems more like, “If economists stand by efficiency, they will deserve to be persuasive”?