Ideologies, Institutions, and Interests: Why Economic Ideas Don’t Compete on a Level Playing Field
The Independent Review, Forthcoming.
23 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2019 Last revised: 11 Jun 2020
Date Written: March 26, 2019
The term “marketplace of ideas” is thoroughly misleading. This phrase is often used to suggest that bad ideas are “defeated” by better ideas in public discourse. In the field of economics, for example, it is commonly assumed that the mainstream, precisely because it is the mainstream, has defeated less worthy rivals. But the extension of the competitive metaphor from markets to ideas is fraught with peril. Markets presuppose some institutional foundation that governs the exchange process. What ensures that market competition is socially beneficial is a strong tendency for good products and firms to succeed over bad and corrupt ones. While ideas do compete, the institutional arrangements governing the selection of ideas looks quite different from that which underlies markets. Ideas are subscribed to by individuals; individuals interact with a wide array of overlapping institutions; institutions select for outcomes on margins unrelated to truth. To demonstrate this, we explore the relationship between the economics profession and the state. We categorize this relationship as a spontaneous order and discuss the resulting implications.
Keywords: economics profession, state, academics, marketplace of ideas, Keynesian, Progressivism
JEL Classification: A11, H10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation