Joe Stiglitz writes a monthly column for Project Syndicate in which he describes himself as a dissenter from the conventional wisdom --- somewhere in-between the failed models of laissez-faire capitalism and state-socialism. Do you believe him?
It is often fashionably chic to play the dissenter. But can you say that a man who has achieved every honor that the establishment can confer on an individual --- both inside and outside of academia (from the positions at Princeton, Stanford, etc., to the Nobel Prize to the Chairmanship of the CEA in DC to the top economist at the World Bank). Stiglitz perhaps more than any other economists was in the pivotal positions throughout his career to shape the economic discourse in this country and throughout the world --- and HE DID. How can he claim to be a dissenter from the orthodoxy when he in fact defined the orthodoxy throughout most of his career?
Keep in mind that in surveys of AEA membership only 3% would describe themselves as free market. So how can you possibly define the "conventional wisdom" in economics as --- 'let the market decide'? Most economists are in fact some form or another of a social democrat and believe whole-heartedly in the necessity of government intervention and the desirability of government programs to correct for market imperfections and protect citizens from the vagaries of unbridled capitalism. I
But I think Stiglitz is capturing something, rather than just trying to be fashionably chic, and that is the difference between the mainstream in a scientific community (a sociological concept) and the mainline teachings of the discipline of economics from Adam Smith to J. B. Say to F. A. Hayek and beyond. (also see here). What Stiglitz is objecting to, is not his great career success --- in fact, he advertises he well-connected status in the description of his column for Project Syndicate. He wants to use his status within the establishment or professional mainstream to challenge the ideas associated with the mainline teaching of economic science. Who better to stake the wrong ideas of the past, than the leading economic mind of the current generation?!
What do you take away from this episode of self-description by a leading economic thinker for the broader state of the discourse over economic science and economic policy?