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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Can economists actually agree on something?

This article in The Economist discusses a recent conference during which eight famous economists attempted to rank various proposals for helping the developing world. Here was the final ordering:

The article describes the scorn placed on the economists for daring to use cost-benefit analysis to determine that the various proposals to curtail global warming were put at the bottom of the list. However, what is disappointing is that the group didn't see fit to stress the creation and enforcement of property rights, and with the exception of the idea that governments could lower the costs of starting a private business, each of the proposals that were deemed very good, good, or fair, require government interference.

Who was on this lauded panel?
"This panel of eight included three Nobel prize-winners—Robert Fogel of the University of Chicago, Douglass North of Washington University in St Louis, and Vernon Smith of George Mason University. And the other five, who may collect a few more Nobels in due course, are also eminent in their respective fields—Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University, Bruno Frey of the University of Zurich, Justin Yifu Lin of Beijing University, Thomas Schelling of the University of Maryland, and Nancy Stokey of the University of Chicago."
The article tells us that the group of eight did agree on the ranking and all endorsed it. So what? If this list is all that was offered, perhaps the ranking is acceptable. Yet, where are the fundamentals that we know promote growth and economic development? Especially Bhagwati knows better.

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