Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Catallaxic Oath

"First, do no harm" or if you prefer the rough latin translation "Primum non nocere".

I think there should be the equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath for economists.

It seems to me that in the short history of modern economics, individual economists have done a sufficient job in influencing politics, and the direction of many economic systems. Because of this, there have been many successess and failures. Much of Latin America and Africa are two of those failures. Additionally, much of modern Anglo-American influenced countries have been highly successful.

Obviously this influence has come at the cost of freedom and individual liberties, as know-it-all economists (economist kings) steer the ship of prosperity and many times hit and iceburg or two.

For some reason, I can not help but think of the teaming up of U2's Bono, JP II, and Jeffery Sachs to rid the world of poverty. And year after year, in their attempts to "help" the poor through mass coercion and the river of largess that they should, "first, do no harm".

Though one should point out that "first do no harm" does not necc. follow to "second, do nothing". ;)

But I would agree with your general point. Any time a person or government devices a scheme to help someone they should always keep in mind the worst case scenerio of aid along with their pet visiosns of the best case scenerio.

Unrealisticly sunny expectations can be partially blamed for a lot of humanitarian inerventions gone bad (including the war in Iraq)
I dunno... doing nothing is always an option. It just usually isn't very popular.
Well, it's certainly an option, but it is not implied by the oath to no harm. You would have to add an additional assumption to (like economists always give harmful advice) to reach that conclusion.

Personally, I think that even if economists have given bad advice in the past (they have), that doesn't mean they can't give good advice now. Look at Easterly's first book on growth. There is certainly some very good points in there on how we can make our assistance more effective. Ditto on De Soto's Mystery of Capital.
Sowell's book, Knowledge and Decisions (Horray! I finished it! now for the paper...) shows how often programs are named according to the end they hopefully will reach, not by the process they utilize to get to that end.

We ought to focus on processes. Use ones that are proven to work.

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