Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Optimal Policy

Most economists (Doleac is at Texas A&M) aren't actually this deluded/dumb, despite the flaws of the professional generally, though they suffer from this syndrome a bit. If you cared to follow her replies you'd see she elaborates it to mean, basically, politicians announce the goal and economists should find the "optimal" way to achieve that, while otherwise not talking about good and bad policies.

"Goals" are never that clearly defined, and nor are, of course, the distribution of benefits and costs. How costs are defined can be pretty funny! It isn't political to, for example, assume a high wage person's time (and thus their LIFE) is more valuable than a low wage person's! It's just science!

Yah, sure, Larry Summers only pipes up when he's addressing a clearly defined question given to him by a policymaker, and is always very explicit about the distributional consequences of a Fed rate hike! That's Serious Economics!!!

Generally the implicit social welfare function in economic analysis is not explicit enough! It's always lurking, though. Roughly, if you try to (pretend to) avoid making judgment calls about distribution, you end up favoring very unequal ones!

The optimal policy to reduce student debt by $10,000 is to reduce student debt by $10,000. Can't argue with that, certainly.