というINET論説をローマ・ラ・サピエンツァ大学経済学部教授Alessandro Roncaglia(アレッサンドロ・ロンカリア)*1書いている(H/T Mostly Economics、原題は「The economist as an expert: a prince, a servant or a citizen?」)。

When, in November 2008, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II asked at an LSE meeting why economists had not foreseen the world financial crisis, she implicitly considered them as servants to the political powers and the general public — servants who (in that instance) had failed to fulfill their duties. Shortly thereafter, when the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, in a moment of severe crisis called on the Economics professor Mario Monti to take on the job of Prime Minister, he assigned to the economist a role of prince: a leader for society, though not subject to electoral democratic contest.
Both notions – economists as servants or as princes – have deep historical roots, and as I will argue below, both should be avoided. We should, instead, see the economist as a citizen, socially and politically engaged – as any citizen should be – in fostering her own ideas about (at the same time) the common weal and her personal interest — which, as discussed by Adam Smith, is a complex notion distinct from pure selfishness.


The expert-as-prince idea is reminiscent of Plato’s partition of society into three classes: philosophers, soldiers and peasants. The Greek philosopher maintained that philosophers should be entrusted with the political leadership, because they’re repositories of the knowledge necessary for best managing the community. Plato’s idea of the ‘government of the experts’ has been re-proposed countless times since then, and (much less frequently) put into practice. Selected events in Italian contemporary history may illustrate some of the advantages usually attached to this function.
First, in periods of crisis, recourse to the expert may have a reassuring effect.
Second, assumptions that the expert operates outside of politics may also help placate excessive partisan political fighting and achieve a policy consensus portrayed as in the national interest.


Yet, all this considered, the idea of the expert as the best leader for the community remains wholly undemocratic. ...
This is not the place to trace the rise of democratic views, but let us focus on three specific points:
First, even from our cursory overview it is apparent that the idea of a ‘government by the experts’ has been always present – with greater or lesser ascendancy – in the political debate, often in non-explicit and moderate forms.
Second, at least since the end of World War II, reference to experts has increasingly meant economists – or, perhaps more precisely, among the experts, economists have been playing a leading role. This is a delicate point, possibly deserving a separate treatment, because it needs a host of qualifications. For instance, because of the increasing cleavage between sociology and (mainstream) economics, economists engaged as advisors to the government have been increasingly relegated to ‘technical’ issues and excluded from debate on ‘social’ policy choices; their direct participation in the political debate on the ‘big issues’ is decreasing – migration policies or social cohesion policies, for instance, appear to be largely outside their field of competence. Thus, the economists’ role is increasingly that of (possibly high and even very high level) servants to the political rulers: a role discussed in the next section.
Third, an important voice in opposition to the ‘government from above’ is that of one of the fathers of Classical political economy. ...As Viner (1927) clarified, Smith was far from being a passionate advocate of economic liberalism; it is, rather, a general plea for self-determination, namely political liberalism. ... in any case, his diffidence towards ‘government from above’ is evident.


The idea of the expert as a politically neutral aide to government is widespread among mainstream economists, who maintain that there is only one ‘true’ economic science and only one correct policy response to any given situation, and therefore that the role of the expert is simply to clarify to politicians in power what that ‘true’ science requires they should do, or avoid doing. Disagreements may exist, but not concerning theory; only in the interpretation of the current situation, which in turn prescribes the specific policy model required in response.
This latter statement is of course an excessive simplification ...
In any case, this view of the economist as a politically independent/neutral expert advisor to governments is marred on two accounts, discussed below: the difficulty of a rigorously objective interpretation of economic reality; and the existence (and importance) of approaches to economic theory different from the mainstream one.
To sum up the reasoning, there is no unique ‘true’ economic science – and, if anything, the Classical-Keynesian approach fared much better, in the face of the crisis, than the marginalist-mainstream one has done. When confronted with different approaches, there is no possibility of an ‘objective’ choice of the expert: different economists will provide different interpretations of the economic situation and different advice on what to do. Often, success of one among contending viewpoints depends on its advocates’ relative institutional power — as reflected in their degree of access to research finance, the media, etc. — rather than on its relative explanatory or forecasting power.


Economists are (or should be) social scientists, not applied mathematicians. This is not to deny the usefulness of mathematics in economic theorizing, but mathematics is a tool to be applied to an underlying ‘vision’ — and this vision should not be kept invisible, nor be considered as unique and obvious; it should be at the center of the economic debate. (The role of the history of economic thought in this account is crucial, as I tried to maintain in other writings.) Again and again, from Adam Smith to Deirdre McCloskey, economists have suggested that the method of the rhetorical debate is better adequate to economic enquiry than judgment from a (majority held) specific point of view. This implies an ethical attitude — in research, in advising policy makers, and in debate both theoretical and policy-oriented, which should be pursued in a systematic way, for instance by attributing full importance to conflicts of interest.
Existence of different underlying ‘visions’ calls for an open debate between economists. As part of this debate, economists should recognize that they are not ‘external’ to the object of their research; they are part of the society they study and, because of this, their views, even their theorizing, are influenced by their own position in society.
Thus, the economist cannot be considered either as a servant to the politician in charge, or as the prince to be summoned to rescue the state in difficult times. The economist should rather be recognized as a citizen — which means, in a democratic society, allowing for different views on what is right and wrong for society. As a citizen, the economist will take part in the policy debate, with the specific abilities characterizing each specific economist, but also with her specific ‘political’ views — trying to get support for her views but intellectually open to the different views proposed by other economists.
This may seem somewhat abstract, but it is, in fact, the very concrete experience of a group of economists active in Italy in the early 1960s, when a new centre-left government took over. The economists participating in the events were politically active, with explicit political orientations: Fuà and Sylos Labini were Socialists, Lombardini was a Christian-Democrat, and so on. They were recognized as good economists, whose advice was to be listened to; but they also took (very) active part in the political debate.
This is how I see the economist: a citizen of our society, more than a savior or a hired expert-advisor to the political leaders of the country.